Shining Star

Well, good morning, Thursday, how do you do? I’m a bit giddy, as I always am after working thirty-two hours in three days. I am in the home stretch of the week with my short days, and a three day weekend! Huzzah! Huzzah!

I can’t wait to sleep in. I also love days when I don’t have to go outside at all, other than perhaps walking to the gym or Walgreens or taking out the garbage. And as the Scotty work is going so well–I have only chapters one through five left to go over again, and then I can start inputting the changes and making the necessary corrections, and I need to finish rewriting the opening and I need to write the afterward–it also serves as a boon to my mood. I am really itching to be done with this, and I am so glad I took my time with this manuscript. I think it’s going to be one of the better Scottys, if I pull off everything I’m trying to do, and I have to say, it’s lovely to feel ambitious with a Scotty book. I think that was why the Chanse series felt like it was running down to me; I didn’t really feel particularly ambitious for the series and the character anymore. It’s been nice writing short stories about Chanse; “My Brother’s Keeper” in Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories is my first Chanse short story and it’s also my first-ever private eye short story. I’m feeling kind of excited about writing private eye stories–I wrote one for another anthology (not a Chanse, alas) and I really want to get back to the other Chanse story I started, “Once a Tiger.” I never thought I’d be able to write private eye stories, and now I feel confident enough to try writing them. I am feeling ambitious with my short story writing, and that’s also a really good feeling. I think I am getting better at it, and am starting to understand them better, if that makes any sense. I also spent some time over the last few days rereading some of my stories critically–“The Problem with Autofill” and “The Snow Globe”–and I think I know how to fix them. I am going to do the same with “Moves in the Field” and “Burning Crosses” over the next couple of days.

I’ve reached the point in my reread of Pet Sematary where the book starts to take off with its story; Louis is home alone at Thanksgiving while the family visits Rachel’s wealthy parents in Chicago (some back story of the bad blood between Louis and her parents is also established here), and of course, Ellie’s beloved cat Church is killed by a passing car on the road. Naturally, Louis doesn’t know how he’s going to deal with both Rachel (who has a very well-established death phobia) and his daughter, who is sure to be devastated and heartbroken. Father figure from across the road Jud, however, comes to his rescue, and later that evening, takes Louis and Church beyond the deadfall (which the ghost of Victor Pascow already warned him against crossing) and the pet sematary and into the woods and the swamp beyond, to the Micmac burying ground…and of course, Church comes back. Different, but back.

As I read this section of the book (of course, Ellie comes home and knows Church is different–so different she really doesn’t want anything to do with him; echoing Jud’s comment “sometimes dead is better”) I began to remember some of the issues I had with the book on first read. Namely, almost every step of the way the book and story has the problem that is probably best encapsulated as why would you do this? Like in horror movies, the group being hunted by the killer always splits up, or the girls always wear heels before running in the forest, etc. Louis is incredibly passive when it comes to the Micmac burying ground visit with the cat’s corpse; never once does he ever stop to question what he’s doing or to ask Jud why they are going so deep in the forest, or why he isn’t simply burying the cat in the regular pet cemetery. And when Church comes back…I don’t know; he seems to take the resurrection of the cat much easier than you’d think a doctor would. And of course when he asks Jud, after Church returns, if anyone’s ever buried a human up there…well, you just know at that point that someone is inevitably going to be buried up there; it’s simply a matter of who, and what’s going to happen when that person returns. I know if, for example, my own cat returned from the dead I’d freak out a whole lot more than he did.

But I am enjoying the book a lot more this time around; it reads very quickly and easily, and the Creed family are immensely likable.

I didn’t watch another episode of Titans last night, instead getting sucked into the Australian Open, which will undoubtedly happen more and more as the tournament goes on. (But I am looking forward to watching one when I get home; it’s an early day for me and I do have some cleaning to do, but I am definitely penciling in both more reading time and time to watch another episode.)

Tomorrow morning i have to get up early to take my car in for routine servicing, and then in to work. It’s also another early day for me–only four hours–and hopefully tomorrow evening when I get home I can finish the cleaning for the weekend so I can work on writing and editing all weekend as well as finishing my reread of Pet Sematary. My next read is going to be a Diversity Project read; I’m going to read my library book, Caleb Roerig’s Last Seen Leaving,  a queer y/a title, and after that, probably something by an author of color. I’m also going to work on rereading Stephen King novels this year, methinks–that’s a lot of reading projects, isn’t it–and I also have some Stephen Kings on hand that I’ve not read…which is something I intend to take care of this year as well.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines for the rest of the morning. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

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Yes, I’m Ready

Wednesday morning, and the week is well on its way to being over. Huzzah! And I remembered yesterday that this coming weekend is a three day weekend because of the Martin Luther King Jr holiday!

It’s actually kind of shocking that I forgot in the first place, to be perfectly honest. Usually, I am counting down the days to three day weekends (I do NOT mean to give the impression that I don’t like my job because I do; it’s a terrific job and I enjoy it tremendously and am very glad I was lucky enough to find a job doing work I can believe in…I just am lazy and prefer to spend time at home being incredibly lazy.) But now that I know I have a three-day weekend to look forward to–well, if I buckle down and get the rest of the Scotty chapters read and notes taken, I can start the final polish this weekend and maybe–just maybe–have it finished by the end of this three day weekend, and then can go back and focus on finishing the WIP by the end of February and I will be back on the schedule I set for myself!

How exciting is that? Pretty fucking exciting.

Yeah, well, I’ll take it, thank you very much.

I watched another episode of Titans last night, and am really enjoying the show. As I said the other day, it’s not easy introducing a team of new characters to launch a show–Heroes did this very well; and it’s one of the reasons why Legends of Tomorrow never really took hold with Paul and I, because it didn’t do that well–but they are doing a really good job. My primary concern is that the actor playing Dick Grayson/Robin-soon-to-be-Nightwing is he looks too young. Handsome, but too young-looking. The Teen Titans–which lost the designation “teen” sometime in the 1970’s, I believe–was always one of my favorite comic books, because it was mostly the sidekicks of the major heroes, who for some reason weren’t allowed into the Justice League (which doesn’t make sense, really) and so formed their own team. I do wonder how they’re going to handle the Kid Flash situation; if the young actor who played Wally on The Flash will come on board Titans, or if they will recast, or if he just won’t ever be a member of the team. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, of course.

So today I need to get through chapters 10-14 of the Scotty to stay on schedule. I am very excited about the prospect of getting this finished sooner rather than later; and I am sure this polish/revision probably won’t go as smoothly as I am hoping/thinking it will, but I am also very ready to be done with this book once and for all. I really am looking forward to getting back to the WIP and getting it finished as well. I also need to finish my reread of Pet Sematary so I can get started on the Diversity Project as well as getting back to the Short Story Project.

I also need to get back to writing my short stories. I reread two of them for revising purposes last night–one needs a major overhaul; I had a great title for it which then became the hook on which I hung the story, but it doesn’t really work. I can salvage the title but i have to go back and redo the story because that particular hook doesn’t work, which is undoubtedly why I haven’t been able to sell it anywhere. It’s a good story, and it’s written well, but the hook….just doesn’t work, and I need to figure out how to make it work rather than stubbornly holding on to the hook.

Heavy heaving sigh. My stubbornness is undoubtedly often my undoing when it comes to my writing.

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

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Upside Down

Tuesday morning, and the week is progressing relatively nicely.

I read those five chapters I’d been putting off yesterday–and there are sloppy messes–but that’s a hurdle cleared. Now on to chapters 10-14. I also started rewriting the beginning of the book, because I was never really happy with the beginning of the book and Sunday night, as I mentioned the other day, I finally thought of the perfect way to open it. Took me awhile, but I am finally there.

One nice thing about this manuscript–as it sits now, it’s over a hundred thousand words. I could, in theory, cut at least twenty thousand and still have a longer book than Garden District Gothic. I’m not quite as hung up on the length of the book as I once was; and who knows? Maybe once I start paring it down and making the sentences and paragraphs flow better, and work out the kinks in the plot and tie everything up and close the gaping holes you could drive a semi-tractor-trailer through, it might even end up that long again.

The great thing about writing is you just never know how it’s all going to turn out.

I am getting further into Pet Sematary, and I’d completely forgotten about Victor Pascow, the university student/jogger who is hit by a car and dies in the student medical center in front of Louis–and before he dies, when they are alone, warns him about going to the pet cemetery, and then his ghost appears to him again that night, and walks him out there to warn him again. It’s a terrific scene, scary and creepy yet not totally terrifying; tightly written and so suspenseful you can’t look away. The foreshadowing is strong, of course; the title of the book, the problems his wife has with death, etc. and the nearby availability of said pet cemetery makes it fairly obvious some bad things are going to have to be faced, and Louis might be making some very wrong decisions when the time comes. I mean, it is a Stephen King novel, after all. I’m enjoying the book ever so much more this time around. I don’t remember if I enjoyed reading it the first time–the actual reading of it. I just remember being so uncomfortable and disturbed by the subject matter that I was never driven to read it again; which makes me wonder if the subject of death was too much for me in my early twenties? Perhaps.

I also watched another episode of Titans last night. It’s starting to pick up steam; I also realized last night that building a television show around a team of heroes makes getting started difficult, as you have to introduce most of the characters as well as get a bit of their back story. Episode Two brought in Hawk and Dove, two lesser known DC Universe heroes I’ve alway liked who never had the marquee appeal of say Superman or Wonder Woman, which is a shame. I also noted last night while watching that all the Titans introduced thus far (with the exception of Starfire) have bird names: Robin, Raven, Hawk and Dove. The actors playing Dick Grayson and Hawk are very attractive; and of course the women are beautiful. I’m looking forward to watching another episode tonight when I get home from work.

Today is the second of my two long days of work; I slept well last night and don’t feel tired this morning. Tomorrow I’ll get to sleep a little later, which will be lovely. It’s always lovely once I get through Monday and Tuesday each week.

And on that note 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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Cruisin

FRIDAY.

It was an interesting week, as I try to readjust to the new realities of my life. The older I get the longer it seems to take to make those necessary adjustments, but I eventually do make them. Change is good, for the most part; I often find myself in a comfortable rut that makes things seem easier–but ultimately hinders creativity and adaptability. And for a writer, things that hinder creativity and adaptability are not good things.

It’s funny,  my career has gone on so long now that I can barely remember the time before I was a published author, and my memories of those pre-Katrina years as a new author are hazy and scant. For some reason, last night I was thinking about those days for some reason–I think it had to do with the Saints being the number one seed in the play-offs, and the first game coming up this weekend; I started reading old blog entries from the season the Saints won the Super Bowl, and I started remembering back then…like how we watched the Return to the Dome Game on Monday night football while we were living back in the carriage house on a tiny little black and white television while the Lost Apartment was under construction, and how I used to always say Life is material for your writing.

It’s kind of crazy. This month–January 20th, to be exact–is the anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, and it’s been sixteen years since it came out. It is no longer in physical print, but sixteen years later the ebook still sells. It was a completely different world back then…my first book will be eligible for a driver’s license in nine days! Madness.

I am hoping to somehow be productive this weekend, around going to see a movie tomorrow and the Saints game on Sunday. Regardless of whether the Saints win or not, it’s been a great football season for us here in the Lost Apartment; LSU was only projected to win six games at most yet wound up 10-3 and in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game, and ended up ranked Number 6 in the final polls. The Saints are currently 13-3 and had some absolutely amazing, heart-stopping wins (kind of like the season when they won the Super Bowl); and, as I said, hold the Number One seed so all their play-off games will be in the Dome. We also need to finish watching Homecoming, and I want to start watching Titans on DC Universe.

The reread of Pet Sematary is coming along nicely; it’s really a well-written book, and there are some amazingly keen insights into relationships and marriage in these first 100 pages. I remember hazily that the book’s primary theme is about death and how to face it, how to deal with it; one of the reasons it bothered me on so many levels. I know, I know, I always hold that mystery and horror fiction are two sides of the same coin; that both genres are about death, but Pet Sematary deals with it on such a micro-level, worming its way into the reader’s thoughts and memories. The death of a pet, the death of a sibling, the death of a child; King takes on all of these horribly human experiences, confronts them, and puts an all-too-very-human face on all of them. I am glad to reread it, because I am really appreciating the genius of it this time through.

And now, back to the spice mines. Today is only a half-day for me, as was yesterday, and while yesterday I’d intended to get a lot done last night, I procrastinated and didn’t get anything done; I cannot allow that to be the story of this day.

Have a great Friday!

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Working My Way Back to You

So now it’s Thursday and I have a mere half-day to work today and tomorrow before I slide into the weekend. This is quite lovely, even if I am wishing my life away.

I started the reread of Pet Sematary this week; and I am enjoying it. I know how it ends, of course, so I can read it and look at the writing and structure, rather than reading to find out what happens. It’s been over thirty years since I read it, way back in 1983 when it first came out, and as I said before, it’s one of my least favorite King works, and one of the few from this period I never reread. It’s my least favorite because it disturbed me so much, to be honest; I was only twenty-two at the time I read it and…yeah, I never had any desire to go back and reread it. It disturbed me on some seriously deep levels…so I am rereading it now, of course, to see if I can get to the bottom of why it disturbed me so deeply. Analyzing it as I go, I am certain no small part of it was because of the dead pet thing…I still get teary-eyed remembering my dog when I was a kid, or having to put Skittle to sleep seven years ago (and Scooter, just so you know, is going to live forever and I don’t want to hear anything else!). The book is quite good thus far; even though I’m not very far into it. The Creed family is your normal, every day American nuclear family (mom, dad, daughter, son and a cat) moving to Maine from Chicago because Louis, the dad, has gotten a job being running a college campus student infirmary. They are all realistic and eminently likable; soon they meet the aged man who lives on the other side of the road, Jud Crandall, and they take to him immediately.

I hope to get another five chapters of the Scotty read, edited, and notes taken today; hopefully at this pace I’ll be ready to start putting corrections and edits into the manuscript text next week, and by the next weekend be finished with it totally, other than the copy edits, proofing, and so forth. I’ve been a little bit off this week, do to sleep issues, but I feel fairly rested this morning. I slept deeply last night for about four hours, waking up around three and then drifting in and out of sleep the rest of the night. I woke up again before seven, but napped until the alarm went off at eight. I can handle this; I don’t feel like I was awake for the entire night the way I usually do on the mornings after nights like that, but who knows? I do have, as I said, an early day today; so hopefully I can get home and get some things done before Paul gets home from work tonight–there’s dishes and laundry, and the kitchen of course is in significant disarray. But as long as I remain focused thus afternoon when I get home, I should be able to get everything I want to get done today done today. (That was some awkward phrasing, wasn’t it?)

I still feel a little unsettled and discombobulated; I am such a creature of routine and relentless sameness that any variation throws me off. Working in a new building with a new work schedule is taking some getting used to; rearranging and rescheduling my writing and reading time is taking even more time to get used to–and of course, once I get into a routine, parade season will be here and it’ll all go to shit again.

Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. I need to get back to the spice mines now, Constant Reader. Have a lovely Thursday!

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Little Jeannie

We made it to Wednesday, Constant Reader! Huzzah!  Today is my eight hour day (after two twelves) and the rest of the week is half-days. I am always so grateful when Wednesday morning rolls around, because I survived the two long days at the beginning of the week yet again. Both nights–Sunday and Monday–were bad sleep nights; that awful half-sleep where the entire time you know if you open your eyes you’ll be awake–but last night’s sleep was absolutely lovely. I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, but alas, there is no rest for the wicked.

I didn’t get as much done on the book yesterday as I would have liked; I was, as I said, very tired by the time I got home from work and as such, was too tired to critically read my own work (trust me, there are days when I’d rather drink bleach than read something I’ve written). So, instead we watched an episode of Homecoming, around which I scrolled through social media, waiting for bedtime. (I did go to bed early, too.)

So, The Shining.

I liked it, as I said the other day, a great deal more than I did the first time I read it; I’m not sure if I’ve read it more than once in the past as my memory is shot, but I don’t think I did read it more than once, unlike other Kings of the era (other than Pet Sematary). While I was rereading it, I was also recognizing and ticking off the boxes of why it bothered me on the first read–child in danger? Check. Abusive marriage/parenting? Check. Alcoholic? Check. Snow and cold? Check. There’s also a very strong sense at the end of the book, once they’ve escaped and are in warm climates and trying to recover from what happened there, to them and to Jack, that the hotel was to blame for everything; that also bothered me on the first read. But on second read, with more perspective on life and characters and how people cope, I realize that this coping mechanism is essential for Wendy and Danny’s recovery from their experiences at the Overlook; putting the blame for the disintegration of Jack into madness and murder on the hotel was an essential coping mechanism for them both, to try to recover from the horrible trauma of husband/father they loved trying to brutally kill them while in the grips of utter madness. But having been through my own traumas over the course of my own fifty-seven years, I can now recognize and understand the necessity for coping mechanisms. The sad truth that neither of them can face is the hotel simply ferreted out what was already inside of Jack, and brought it out; it was always there, and Jack was forever resisting it. Had they not gone to the hotel, he would have undoubtedly hurt one or both of them again, and their story would have eventually ended in tragedy, one way or another; the Overlook simply sped up the process.

As I said the other day, The Shining also is an extraordinary work in that it’s a highly claustrophobic novel, despite the fact that the hotel itself, along with its grounds, are actually quite large spaces. But the tight point of views on the three main characters, and being able to show everything that’s going on from everyone’s point of view, is an incredibly smart choice; the book wouldn’t have worked without this shifting point of view and perspective, and each of the three characters are so superbly delineated by King that the authorial voice changes enough to make each point of view clear and distinct. The character of Jack was fascinating for me to read, to watch his slow disintegration into madness and the rise of his baser self–a self King was very careful and deliberate to show was always there, but kept down by force of will and societal mores learned over time. King dives so deep into Jack and who he is–this is also a trademark of King’s characters, across all his work–that his loathing and anger and contempt and provocations to violence are understandable  even as they are horrific; Jack isn’t, of course, the villain of his own story. But there’s another layer to him that knows better, makes him question himself…and King even gives him a moment of redemption in the finale that makes it seem as though he is entirely, against his will, a tool the hotel is using to kill them all.

The finale is also a magnificent example of building suspense. It is impossible to put the book down as you zip through those last hundred pages.

As a writer myself, it’s hard not to sympathize with a wannabe writer who’s failing to live up to the early promise of a publication in Esquire magazine; of not being able to write, who experiences the self-doubt and self-questioning that I am always struggling with myself. Ben Mears in ‘salem’s Lot is also a novelist, with a little more success to his credit than Jack, but Ben’s self-confidence and lack of concern about the lack of success makes him a vastly different–and not as relatable to another writer–character.

An interesting essay, or piece of literary criticism that someone should write, would be about King’s depictions of writers in his work–there are a lot of them. Just off the top of my head, there are writers in It, ‘salem’s Lot, The Shining, Insomnia, Misery, and The Dark Half; I am sure there are even more–I think Lisey’s Story also?

And now back to the spice mines.

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