Everything’s Gone Green

My memory has truly become amazingly awful and limited as I grow older. Yesterday was one of those days that reminded me just how bad it’s become–and how rarely I follow through on plans I make.

I started writing about Kansas when I was a teenager living in Kansas, and I wrote a long, messy manuscript by hand that was essentially a kind of Peyton Place tip-off, with tons of characters and plots and subplots that meandered about and never really had one cohesive central story. Over the years since that handwritten, almost a thousand page first draft was finished, I came to the realization that as a single novel itself I would need to cut out a minimum of fifty percent of the characters and even more of the subplots while tightening it into one cohesive story. The name of the town changed multiple times, as did the names of the some of the characters, while others remained the same from beginning to end. I had no idea at the time of how to write a novel, or how to structure one…but since it already existed, I began mining it for other novels and short stories, pilfering names and subplots and so forth (the murder story in Murder in the Garden District, and the Sheehan family in the book, were directly lifted from this old manuscript; I changed the family name from Craddock to Sheehan). My young adult novel, Sara, also had a lot of story lifted from this same old manuscript–even characters’ names–so when I started building this iteration of what I’ve taken to calling “the Kansas book” over the years, I knew it was possible I was repeating names from the old original, and at some point I would have to check Sara at some point to get the character names from it, to not repeat them. The Kansas book was also intended to be set in the same world as Sara–Sara being primarily set in the county and the small grouping of three small towns consolidated into one high school; with this book set in the county seat, the small city/large town I called Kahola. Kahola never really sat well with me for the town name; it’s perfectly fine for the name of the county as well as the lake (there actually is a Lake Kahola; it’s where we went when I lived there and “went to the lake”), so I decided to change it to Liberty Center (which I got from Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, so it’s also an homage) and Sara geography be damned. So, yesterday while the Saints played terribly and ended their season (and possibly Drew Brees’ career), I was scanning though the ebook of Sara and pulling out character names–even minor ones– as well as place names and so forth.

I am very pleased to report that there is only one character name that traveled from the original manuscript to Sara and finally into this new iteration of the Kansas book, and obviously that needs to be changed. I am not willing to change the name of the county seat back to Kahola; it never really seemed to fit, and Liberty Center works much better on every level, but I can change the name of the character in #shedeservedit to avoid confusion…not that there would be much, since Sara is my lowest selling book for some reason I certainly don’t get, but it would unsettle me, so it cannot be. As I was pulling names out of the ebook, and place names and places of interest, I also began remembering other things.

I had originally intended for all of my young adult novels to be connected in some way, kind of how R. L. Stine had done his Fear Street series, where all of the books take place in the same town and high school, and a minor character in one would become the hero of another. I was reminded of this because Laura Pryce is mentioned by name in Sara; she was the protagonist of Sorceress, and she was from the same rural part of Kahola County and went to the same consolidated high school. Sorceress tells the story of how Laura goes to live with her aunt in a huge house outside the California mountain town of Woodbridge; Woodbridge is also the setting for Sleeping Angel, and characters overlapped from Sorceress to Sleeping Angel. The Chicago suburb in Sara where Glenn is from is the same suburb that the main character in Lake Thirteen was from; it is the same suburb where Jake’s father, stepmother, and half-siblings live in Bury Me in Shadows; and of course, this latter is set in Corinth County, Alabama–which is where my main character in Dark Tide was also from. As I was picking out the character and place names from Sara, I was also reminded of other books I’d wanted to write, and I had introduced some of these characters in this book intending to revisit them again at another time in another book or story–books and stories I have since forgotten about completely, and yet there are the characters, crying out to me from my Kindle app for me to write about them.

Having triggered my brain into the creative mode yesterday by doing this chore during the Saints game (I started during the men’s finals at the US Figure Skating Championships; congratulations to our world team o Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, and Jason Brown) I also began remembering other things I was working on–like “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “To Sacrifice a Pawn,” two stories I started for a submissions call I didn’t manage to make; or some of my pandemic story ideas (inspired by the pandemic or during it) like “The Flagellants”, “The Arrow in the Cardinal’s Cap”, and “The Pestilence Maiden”; amongst so many, many others. This is why I despair of ever writing everything I want to write during the limited time I have on this earth; I could spend the rest of my life trying to write every story and novel idea I already have and would never be able to finish them all.–and I have new ideas, all of the time; it’s almost ridiculous.

I already know I am most likely going to revisit Corinth County in Alabama again–it’s basically where my already-in-progress novellas “Fireflies” and “A Holler Full of Kudzu” are set, amongst many other ideas for short stories, novellas, and novels. I will undoubtedly return to Liberty Center at some point as well; I have ideas for other Kansas books and stories, too; I’ve revisited Kahola County, Kansas in my short stories numerous times already as well. I’ve also got my own parish in Louisiana–Redemption Parish, which I wrote about in Murder in the Arts District, The Orion Mask, and some other short stories. I’ve also already invented a fictional town on the north shore–similar to Hammond–that showed up in Baton Rouge Bingo and will undoubtedly turn up again in my work, although perhaps not under my own name.

I spent some more time with Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and am thoroughly enjoying the ride. King’s authorial voice is so strong (and reminiscent of the late great Elizabeth Peters) that I cannot wait to read more of the Mary Russell series–it’s so different from her Kate Martinelli series, which I also love–and intend to spend some more time with it this morning with my coffee as well; I see a new tradition for non-working days developing; reading with my coffee in the mornings, which is simply wonderful. I recently acquired Alyssa Cole’s thriller When No One Is Watching, which I am also looking forward to, and I have added both Stephen King’s The Stand and Faulkner’s Sanctuary to the reread pile…and I’d also like to get back to the Short Story Project at some point….and of course there are all those ebooks piled up in my Kindle as well.

We also spent last evening after the Saints’ loss getting caught up on The Stand, which I am enjoying, although it’s made some choices I find questionable. I’m okay with everything having to do with the plague and the characters making their way to either Boulder or Las Vegas being done entirely in flashback, but the focus on the character of Harold Lauder–whom, while important to the story, was at best a supporting character in the novel and the original mini-series–is an interesting choice. They’ve certainly spent more time with him than they have with any of the people who were the novel’s protagonists–Stu, Larry, Glen, Frannie–so the focus of the mini-series seems a bit off to me….but props to them for casting the delightful Alexander Skarsgard as Flagg; his beauty and charisma–so evident as Eric on True Blood–playing perfectly into the role of the dark leader of the other side. Over all, the series is well done and well cast (Whoopi Goldberg as Mother Abagail doesn’t quite work for me; in the book she was old and frail and Whoopi is many things but frail is not one of them; I’d have gone with Cicely Tyson or any of the other gifted Black actresses who are older now) and I am a bit more forgiving than most when it comes to adaptations, I think–especially since the key part of the word is adapt. (I saw some more Hardy Boys enthusiasts bitching about the Hulu series somewhere again yesterday; honestly–I really have to center a book and a mystery around a kids’ series’ overly enthusiastic fans) We still have the rest of the first season of Bridgerton to watch, and season two of Servant has dropped on Apple Plus–do NOT sleep on this creepy-as-fuck show; you will not regret it–and I am also anticipating the release of Apple Plus’ adaptation of Foundation, starring Jared Harris, and we’ve also got a second season of The Terror somewhere to watch, and the second season of Mr. Mercedes on Peacock as well…so we seem to be set for things to watch for a good while.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Today is going to be mostly spent reading Laurie King this morning, and then the rest of the day spent with my manuscript as I try to work out the kinks and figure out what else needs to go into it. Have a happy holiday Monday, and do try to remember Dr. King’s message of equality, unity, and freedom for all.

Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

I despise snow.

Oh, sure, it’s pretty and all, but there’s nothing worse in my opinion than being wet and cold–and that’s a definite result of snow. Although some of my favorite horror novels/films/TV shows are set in the cold and snow (Ghost Story, Stranded, The Terror) and I do have that Christopher Golden novel about the cold and snow in my TBR pile (Snowblind, I think is its name?).

I woke up late this morning with a definite sore throat, as opposed to the tickle I’ve been fighting all week, which isn’t a good thing. I shall liberally dose myself with NyQuil this day as I write and edit and do things around the house. Yesterday I accomplished little to nothing, quite frankly. I did start inputting the edits in “Don’t Look Down,” but stopped after a couple of pages. It was terribly easy for me to get distracted yesterday, partly because I felt so tired all day. We went to a Christmas party last night, which was quite lovely, actually–I drank too much champagne (which has nothing to do with my sore throat, thank you very much) and we took Lyft there and back. It was a very fun evening, with lots of laughter–my sides and abs ache a bit this morning from laughing so hard last night–but today I simply must get things done. I have a stack of paper sitting on my desk to the right of me, and I absolutely must work my way through that entire stack of edits today, or else.

I also have some laundry to do–two loads I started yet didn’t finish yesterday–and the kitchen is still a mess (I told you, I didn’t do much of anything yesterday), and I’d also like to get some reading done today. I am making shrimp and grits for dinner (first time in a very long time I’ve done this) and I also am going to try to make some food for the week, to make things easier on me (broiling chicken breasts, for example). This is, of course, the last full work week I have before the holidays, which reminded me that I actually need to put in a full eight hour day this Friday, as well as next Thursday and Friday. (Note to self: remember that or you’re going to get screwed with your hours)

I also need to make sure I am on track with everything I need to be on track with; which means administrative work–which as I am sure you can imagine how much I love doing that. It’s a heavy plate for a Sunday, but what can I do? It all has to be done, and I need to get this all done before the holiday weekends. I kind of just want to get some writing on Bury Me in Satin done, as well as these edits, then start tackling the Royal Street Reveillon problems over the two four-day weekends.

And then, of course, Carnival begins. Heavy heaving sigh. It’s just non-stop around here.

And now tis back to the spice mines.

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Sleeping Bag

Saturday morning and a lovely night’s sleep was had last evening; today is, I think, going to be a lazy day. We’re in a heat advisory, and I do want to go to the gym this morning, but after that I might have to just stay inside the rest of the day. The heat can be so oppressive; I worry about just how high my power bill is going to be, and it feels like my car never completely cools down when I’m driving here or there, hither and yon.  New Orleans summers are quite brutal; it’s hot and above all else, damp. Hydration is vital because you lose a lot of body fluids through sweating. Just walked to the car from the Lost Apartment, my socks get damp and so do my underarms and forehead. The wetness of the air is, naturally, wonderful for wild plant life; part of the reason New Orleans is so lush with vegetation is nature’s determination to return the city to what it was originally: a swamp. The sidewalk alongside the house is covered in pink crepe myrtle blossoms, like it snowed pink overnight.

I really don’t want to go outside.

But I will always prefer heat to cold. That will never change. I don’t, after all, have to scrape humidity off my car or shovel it off my sidewalk. And really, the anticipation of dealing with the heat is always worse than it ever turns out to be.

The kitchen is a mess this morning, so I definitely need to unload the dishwasher and do another load of dishes this morning. I’ll probably do the floors as well; in for a penny and all that. I may just wind up spending the day reading Lou Berney’s brilliant November Road. My reading has slowed down a bit; I’m not sure why that is, and I also need to read some more short stories this morning, as I only have two that I’ve read left to blog about; but the lovely thing about short stories is they are short, and don’t take a long time to read. I can read three or four in less than an hour, and I’ve got all kinds of anthologies and single-author collections piled up all around the house and in my iPad.

Or…I could just blow everything off and deal with it tomorrow. I’m going to have to make a grocery run anyway.

Weekends.

Next up in the Short Story Project is “The River Styx Runs Upstream” by Dan Simmons, from his collection Prayers to Broken Stones and other Stories:

I loved my mother very much. After her funeral, after her coffin was lowered, the family went home and waited for her return.

I was only eight at the time. Of the required ceremony I remember little. I recall that the collar of the previous year’s shirt was far too tight and that the unaccustomed tie was like a noose around my neck. I remember that the June day was too beautiful for such a solemn gathering. I remember Uncle Will’s heavy drinking that morning and the bottle of Jack Daniels he pulled out as we drove home from the funeral. I remember my father’s face.

The afternoon was too long. I had no role to play in the family’s gathering that day, and the adults ignored me. I found myself wandering from room to room with a warm glass of Kool-Aid, until finally I escaped to the backyard. Even that familiar landscape of play and seclusion was ruined by the glimpse of pale, fat faces staring out from the neighbor’s windows. They were waiting. Hoping for a glimpse. I felt like shouting, throwing rocks at them. Very deliberately I poured the red Kool-Aid into the sand and watched the spreading stain digging a small pit.

They’re digging her up now.

Dan Simmons is a terrific writer. The first of his I read was Carrion Comfort, which I remember fondly, before moving on to (among others) Song of Kali, Summer of Night, and Children of the Night. There was also a really terrific one set in Hawaii whose name I cannot recall right now; but it was about volcanoes and Pele, and I also really enjoyed it. The television adaptation of his The Terror was simply phenomenal television, and while I disagree strongly with his politics–I try as hard as I can to separate the artist  from the work.

This story is absolutely fantastic, and chilling, and creepy. Humanity has developed the technology to revive the dead, but rather than going into any explanations of how that works or why you would do such a thing, Simmons focuses on the point of view of a child whose mother has died and is being brought back…and how other people react to such a thing. This could easily make a terrific novel; and the themes of isolation, being viewed as outsiders and being ostracized by your community, is handled beautifully and can be extrapolated into symbolism about any outsiders. It’s really quite terrific.

And now on to the spice mines.

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Never

Wednesday. I am working only a half-day today, and then I am taking a short vacation. I don’t have to be back at the office until Tuesday of next week, so I am going to try to relax, get caught up on some things–without any pressure to do any of those things–and recalibrate my head, my heart and my soul.

And do something about how disgusting I’ve allowed my apartment to get in the meantime. I do think a thorough clean will help purge my soul; when my apartment isn’t clean and organized, it weighs on me.

I worked a little on the WIP and the Scotty yesterday, and primarily worked on another short story, “Never Kiss a Stranger.” One of the funny things about me, and my stubbornness, and my tendency to get caught up in tunnel vision, is my regular insistence that I am writing everything in the present day. Part of my struggle with “Never Kiss a Stranger” in the past was trying to make it work in the present; yesterday it occurred to me you can set this in the past, you know, and presto! By moving the story from 2018 to 1994, it clicked into place and started working. My main character is a gay man with twenty years in the military; at age thirty-eight, in those days before “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” being gay was grounds for a dishonorable discharge; after the Gulf War he finds out he is on a ‘to-be-investigated’ list and so puts in his retirement papers. His parents dead and not having a relationship with anyone else in his family, he comes out into the general world and decides to move to New Orleans to start his life anew; it’s also his first opportunity as an adult to live openly as a gay man. As I revised what had already been written, the character’s voice clicked in my head and I was able to remember New Orleans in that time period; when I was visiting and falling in love with the city, as well as remembering what a different time period it was, even though it was only slightly more than twenty years ago. No cell phones or Internet, HIV/AIDS was still pretty much a death sentence (or rather, just a matter of time once infected), and New Orleans was riddled with crime everywhere and inexpensive to live; a beautiful old city decaying in her splendid, rotting beauty in the sun.

And it’s kind of fun writing about the past sometimes, being able to  use my own memories (and my journals) to remember things. And at the same time, incredibly freeing to finally realize something so obvious; that everything needn’t be in the present.

We finished watching both The Terror and Thirteen Reasons Why last night; The Terror, while unsettling, ended inevitably in the only way that it could; I am sorry to be finished with it, and will, when it’s free for streaming, probably watch it again to understand it better. It should be a leading contender for all the Emmys; the question only being which stellar member of the cast should take the trophy home. Thirteen Reasons Why’s second season was…interesting, yet incredibly disappointing in its third season. The resolution of some story lines, which had long since been played out, ended in unsatisfying ways that were, while bitter, realistic and honest and true to life. Rapists get away with slaps on the wrists far too often and our judiciary often lets female victims know that their lives really have no value and there is no justice for them. The final episode, with its bittersweet closure, worked in that respect while at the same time set the stage for a third season with horrifyingly depicted brutality, showing that the damage that was caused by the incidents that triggered the first two seasons have deeper and far more lasting consequences; when damage isn’t repaired and the systems that allowed that damage to occur aren’t corrected, far worse damage can occur. The close of the episode, I felt, was a bit of a cop-out; but I understand why they didn’t see that story through, and it did leave me curious to see where it can go next. There hasn’t been an announcement, as far as I know, that there will be a third season; I’d like to see it, if for no other reason than curiosity to see how these newly planted seeds will grow.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Alive and Kicking

Tuesday and a short work week! I am working half-a-day tomorrow, and taking off Thursday and Friday; which, coupled with Memorial Day, gives me a lovely mini-vacation which will enable to get some things done that I want to get done and rest and relax and write and…well, we’ll see how it goes, but I am heading into my mini-vac with seriously high hopes to get a lot accomplished.

And if I don’t? Well, at least I’ll be well-rested.

Watch this space for updates.

Seriously, though, we are continuing through Thirteen Reasons Why, with only two episodes left to go in this season, and while it continues to get better with every episode, I think there may have been a little too much conflict in the writer’s room when story-boarding this season. The show has yet to be picked up for a third season, but there are rumblings on line that Season 2 definitely left the door open for a third; possibly with major cliff-hanger endings to the various story-lines running through the show. It just gets frustrating when things are contrived for the plot, you know what I mean? But then, the original season was also contrived, since it was based on the notion that 1) she had access to cassette tapes 2) she was assuming everyone she wanted to listen to the tapes would have access to a cassette player and 3) she also assumed any one of the people wouldn’t just throw the tapes away. There was a bit of a blackmail threat, of course, but at the same time….I still think at least one of the kids would have destroyed the tapes, or at least not passed them on; especially one of the kids who didn’t really have as much to lose as the others.

But…the young cast is very appealing and compelling in their roles.

Also: we can watch the finale of The Terror tonight. Seriously, if you aren’t watching, it’s some of the best television I’ve seen in years.

And now, for a return to The Short Story Project, we have “The Good Cat” by Vicki Hendricks,  from Retreats from Oblivion: The Journal of Noircon:

I had no name till Dad took me home. Now I answer to Lickrish, Buddy, and Son–when I feel like it. I gave up chasing lizards, squirrels, and birds, and climbing trees, for Dad. None of it was as good as his fingers behind my ears, his soft belly-lap, and the tang of his silky armpit slung across out bedsheets where I curl. I am a good boy till I start trouble.

Dad is on the couch and I am in his lap, as we are supposed to be at night. He turns my head toward his snout. “Son,” he says, his fingers massaging the tingly spot above my tail, “You’re the only one Dad needs.” I stretch forward, head down, butt up. I hunker into a cuddly lump and purr, keeping my eyes cracked on a swaying palm frond outside the window. I’m lulled by the movement—happy—as Dad calls it. He rests his hand on my back and watches the picture-screen.

After a while he says, “Buddy, let’s take a drive to my Ami. Wanna?” It is a place with windows in the sky, a world of sand, and salty waves that try to drown you if you stop to dig a hole. I leap to his shoulder and tuck my forepaws into the dark stubble on his neck, scouring the side of his face with my tongue till he pulls me off. He does not understand what I am telling him, that we are happy on the couch. I do not want to go to his Ami, or anywhere, but I do not want to stay home all by myself.

Read the whole story here.

Vicki Hendricks should be one of the biggest names in crime fiction today, without question. I myself am just as guilty as all the rest of you; this is only my second experience reading some of her work, and I really need to remedy that failing. Her debut novel, Miami Purity, is one of the best noir novels of all time, period, no questions, no doubt. The entire time I read it–and if I recall correctly, I indulged in the entire thing one rainy afternoon in my easy chair, riveted from beginning to end, and it is still an accomplishment in noir writing that I can only try to emulate; I doubt, in all sincerity and honesty, that I could write its equal. After reading this short story, I immediately added all the rest of Hendricks’ novels to my list; I strongly urge you to do so as well.

“The Good Cat” reminded me of Patricia Highsmith’s short story “Ming’s Biggest Prey”; both are dark, noir tales from the point of view of a cat–which is not entirely an easy thing to pull off, but once you read the stories they totally make sense: what could be more noir than a cat? Both stories are about a cat’s love for their owner; Highsmith’s is darker because the character of the cat is more dark; Hendricks rather views a dark thing from the cat’s point of view; a cat who loves its owner, which makes the ending all the more heartbreaking and yes, noir. (Highsmith’s story ends with no small feeling of satisfaction in the reader.)

Read Vicki Hendricks. Do it. Now. 

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Secret Lovers

I slept so well last night that I didn’t want to get up this morning, which is perhaps the greatest feeling of all. Huzzah! It also means I am not heading into the weekend feeling tired, which will be yet another great feeling. Hurray! Huzzah! Of course, the kitchen’s a disaster area, but I may have the time to correct that this morning before I head into the office. One can always hope, at any rate.

I do think “Burning Crosses” is ready for a read aloud; there’s one more paragraph I need to add, and maybe a sentence here and there, but other than that, it’s close to done. I have also made progress on “This Thing of Darkness,” and I think, as far as short stories go, I am ready to get back to finish/polish/read out loud “Once a Tiger” and “The Problem with Autofill.” I also want to get back to the WIP and the Scotty; I need to read Scotty from the beginning and make notes; and likewise, Chapter Two of the WIP needs to be rewritten, may even need to be a completely newly written chapter because I need to add a scene. But I am hopeful I am setting myself up for an incredibly productive weekend. I am going to a book signing on Saturday afternoon for Bryan Camp’s The City of Lost Fortunes at Tubby and Coo’s (hello, Five Guys!) and I am also supposed to go to a party on Saturday evening, but we’ll see how that all plays out. I may just make Saturday an errand day and try to spend Sunday focusing on writing.

We shall see.

The Terror continues to enthrall, as it moves along to its inevitable end. The ninth episode, which we watched last night, was just non-stop misery and powerful acting from everyone involved. After we finished watching, Paul and I talked about how much we’re enjoying it and The Handmaid’s Tale, and I made the curious realization that the two shows we’re enjoying the most right now are horrific stories of human beings caught up in the most terrifyingly horrible of circumstance, and how interesting is it that we are so enthralled by what basically are, thematically, stories of survival and how much can you take, how much can you handle without giving up entirely?

The writing, and the acting, always stellar, is Master Class worthy in this heartbreaking episode. I fear The Terror will be overlooked for awards, when that season is upon us; which is absolutely wrong. It should win all the awards; I would be hard-pressed, though, to decide on which actor to vote for; there are all that good.

I have to say, yesterday was a lovely day for me professionally. The table of contents for the Murder-a-Go-Go’s anthology I am in was released, and it’s quite stellar. It was lovely to see the social media response; all the likes and retweets and excitement. I am very pleased to be in this book, and I am equally pleased with the story I wrote for it. The book won’t be available until 2019, alas; but it’s going to be a truly good one.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines.

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On My Own

The Terror continues to enthrall us; it’s such an amazing achievement for a television production; the mood, the eeriness, the sense of dread. The acting and the production values are also amazing. Well done, AMC. The Walking Dead  may have gone off the rails, and we may have lost interest in Fear the Walking Dead early on, but there’s no question that you have become one of the leaders in producing quality television series. I am surprised The Terror isn’t getting more attention than it is; it’s indicative of just how little attention it’s getting that when I started watching I thought the entire series had finished airing. Come on, people; it’s well written, incredibly suspenseful, the acting is top-notch, and the production values are amazing.

I am almost finished with the revision of “Fireflies,” and so it, too, should be ready for a read-aloud this weekend. Once those are finished, I can send off the short story collection and submit “Fireflies” to the appropriate anthology; and then it’s back to the WIP and Scotty. (I also have a thought about a second collection of stories, but that’s a whole other ball game, and I may skip out on it for this year and try for the contest–there’s a contest for a short story collection I’m eyeing, but making the submission for this year might be a push, really; I could always wait and do it next year; when the collection would have matured and I could take my time with the stories. But then again, we’ll have to see how writing goes this summer. One never knows, does one?)

In other exciting news, today I cut the cable cord once and for all. It’s amazing what an exorbitant price we were paying–and have been paying–for years. I simply upgraded my Hulu subscription to include live television, and wound up getting almost all the channels we were getting anyway, losing a few but also gaining a few and said goodbye to the cable bill. We pretty much stream everything anyway these days, so why keep paying? Hulu is $39.99 for live television as well as on demand, and we have all those other apps. And really, if there’s any show we want to see or watch that we don’t get thru Hulu or through one of the apps…I can pay for it. It’s way cheaper than paying almost (gulp) fifteen hundred dollars a year for a lot of shit we don’t watch. Hulu TV isn’t as easy to flip through from channel to channel–which is going to make college football days more difficult….but on the other hand, I also don’t need to spend my entire Saturdays in the fall sitting in my easy chair watching every college game that airs.

And the more we use it, the easier the Hulu TV is going to be to use. It’s about getting used to it.

And I have to say, it’s going to feel good to only pay that much lower bill for simply high speed internet.

Of course, the cable company is already offering me deals to come back. Um, maybe you should offer the deals to have kept me in the first place?

I will keep you posted, Constant Reader, on how the Hulu TV option works for us. But other than an occasional glitch last night, it seemed to work just fine.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Fresh

Well, I managed to get that slog of Chapter Fourteen finished yesterday; only managed about twenty-seven hundred words, but as I mentioned in the morning, I was tired and slightly out of sorts all day. I also worked on “My Brother’s Keeper” a little bit; not enough to get it finished and ready for what I call the “read aloud polish”, in which I read the story out loud to make sure the language and sentences flow properly. It also helps me catch repetitions. But its getting closer to that stage, and I am most happy about that; perhaps I’ll be able to do the read-aloud this weekend. I’d also like to do a read aloud of another story–not “Don’t Look Down,” there’s a lot more work necessary on that story, pruning and tweezing and adding things; since it’s a longer story I need to know my main character a lot more, and I am still not sure I have the opening right.

I have also decided that I am going to try to write a story for the Malice Domestic anthology for 2019; it has a gastronomy theme. I love testing myself with themed anthologies; to see if I can write to the theme, stretch the theme, and stretch myself as a writer. I rarely, if ever, get into these anthologies, of course; but I enjoy the challenge of trying.

(Oh, sure, I get a little bitter when I don’t get accepted, but then I move on and get over it. Life’s too short, you know. Well, is IS.)

We were also terribly distressed to realize last night that we were caught up on The Terror; I hadn’t realized the show was still airing. Sigh. Now we have to find something else to watch, as another episode won’t be available until next week. Incredibly annoying, but there you have it. I do have some thoughts about it–some especially about the gay character of Cornelius Hickey, adroitly played by Adam Nagaitis, who may be stealing the entire series out from under the rest of the cast–but I am going to reserve those opinions until I finish watching the series. It does, however, speak to how compelling and good the show is that Paul and I were both enormously disappointed to realize we had to wait until next Wednesday for another episode; we were really looking forward to seeing it through until it’s inevitable end this week.

Adam Nagaitis:

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And here’s hoping Chapter Fifteen will not be the slog Chapter Fourteen was.

And now back to the spice mines.

 

All She Wants to Do is Dance

Hello, Wednesday, how are you this morning? I’m a little out of sorts this fine spring morning in New Orleans; my sleep has been restless this week and thus I am not as rested as I would prefer. The book has turned once again into a slog, but the best thing about the slog is–as I was slogging through Chapter Fourteen yesterday–I had one of those “only when I am writing a Scotty book” moments: when I get bored with what I’m writing so I toss in a plot twist out of nowhere. And it’s a good one too; I can’t believe it never crossed my mind to do this. It also makes sense with what else is going on. I do think this book is going to eventually turn out to be something pretty decent; it’s just getting this slog of a first draft finished. It’s going to be a lot more sloppy than the first drafts usually are; because I am not going back and polishing whenever I get stuck, I am simply forcing myself to keep going.

It also occurred to me yesterday that since it was May 1, I am officially further behind than I’d wanted to be. I wanted to have the first draft finished by now, and obviously, I am still slogging through the middle, with at least another eleven chapters to go. Zounds! Zoinks! Heavy sigh! I also need to finish revising/rewriting some short stories, and need to remember to buy and send a mother’s day card to my mother.

Must. Make. List. Must. CONSULT. List. Regularly.

There’s no point in having a list if you don’t look at it, after all, and avoiding consulting the list for fear its length, and the things still to be crossed off, is not an excuse. It’s simply enabling the procrastination.

So, despite being tired, I am determined to get Chapter Fourteen finished today, and I am going to go back and polish/revise “My Brother’s Keeper.” That is the goal for the day (well, that and paying bills since its payday; avoiding thinking about it because it’s depressing isn’t going to make it go away).

Sad, harsh truths.

What was really funny was yesterday I was looking through real estate listings for a part of New Orleans where one of my characters in the book lived; I’d found a house the day before whilst working on Chapter Thirteen and described it. But the website was still up yesterday, and I looked at it again, and the perfect house for this character was sitting right there, a couple of rows below the one I’d used; one of those ‘faux Tara’ type houses that pretentious nouveau riche southern people like to build and live in; with the wide veranda and, of course, the ever-present, stereotypical COLUMNS. But I wasn’t feeling particularly witty at the time, nor did I want to take the time to revise the entire section, so I simply put in a note in bold, revise this and make it a plantation style house and make lots of snarky Gone with the Wind jokes.

I do love when that happens.

We are also still watching The Terror, which is quite well done. I am always amazed when the credits roll because the episodes go by rather quickly, despite the fact that the story actually moves rather slowly. I did comment last night, after we had watched two episodes, that I couldn’t believe we were only five episodes in, because the show is so complex and layered yet seems so simple on the surface, that it seems we’ve been watching for a long time and should be closer to the end than we actually are. That’s some pretty masterful storytelling, I think. I think I’ll be terribly sorry when this is finished.

In other exciting news, I got an ARC of Megan Abbott’s forthcoming Give Me Your Hand in today’s mail, which has me thrilled to no end. I love her work; and she somehow manages to surpass herself with each successive novel, which is no easy trick. Now, to find the time to read it. I also have ARCs of Lori Roy’s new novel as well as Alex Segura’s, and I simply have got to find the time to read these books.

give me your hand

I know I’ve not been keeping up with the Short Story Project, but I have read a shit ton of stories already this year! I’ll get back to it, I promise, but I also think I’m going to proceed a little differently than I have been. I’ve been talking about every story I’ve read here, and I don’t think I am going to do that from now on; instead, I am only going to talk about ones that hit it out of the park for me. That may also mean I don’t post about newly read stories every day, but I think I would rather do this than try to find something to say about stories I didn’t care for as much as others; this ends up diluting the Short Story Project, and not allowing me the time nor the opportunity to delve as deeply into the stories I really enjoy.

And now, back to the spice mines. I only managed two thousand words yesterday; and as I said, I am behind. So, must make daily word counts!

Penny Lover

Also over the course of the weekend, as I was desperate to find an excuse to neither clean nor write, we watched a horror film on Prime called Don’t Hang Up.

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To be honest, I doubt that we would ever have watched this film had I not been scrolling through the listings of horror films on Prime. I actually had started House on Sorority Row because Eileen Davidson and Harley Jane Kozack were in it, but lost interest really quickly. When I saw this listing, and saw that it starred Gregg Sulkin and Garrett Clayton, my first thought was I’ve never heard of this and my second was well, they’re cute boys at the very least.

(Sulkin was the romantic lead on an MTV series I watched called Fakin’ It, and of course, Clayton played underage gay porn star Brent Corrigan in King Cobra.)

It was actually kind of good, although the premise–a group of four male high school friends prank call people, filming the entire thing for Youtube–seemed a little shaky to me; I was all do people still prank call people? Is that still a thing? But things take a turn for the dark side when they prank call the wrong person; a psycho who wants to get revenge on them, and then the movie becomes classic horror movie, a la Scream and Halloween, etc. As far as the genre goes, it’s actually well done, and the two boys do a credible job of acting. There are also some surprise twists, and the end was absolutely perfect. Well done, folks!

We also started watching AMC’s The Terror.

The Terror is based on a novel by Dan Simmons and in the episodes we’ve seen so far, it’s very well done, well acted, well written with high production values. I do have some questions–the show begins with the two ships trying to get through the Arctic Ocean to map the northwest passage; a northern route around North America to the Orient. The ships get frozen into the ‘block’ when the sea freezes over…and then it jumps ahead eight months.

The Terror is based on the true story of  the Franklin Expedition–which vanished; the wrecks of the ships were found recently. I have to say, as I often do, that I love fictional stories that are based in real history. Fiction can often, for me, provide a jumping off place to start reading history or about a region; Steve Hamilton’s Misery Bay got me fascinated in the history of the Great Lakes, and Lake Superior in particular; which led to me reading a lot about shipwrecks in that largest of the Great Lakes, and the Edmund Fitzgerald in particular. Watching The Terror will probably lead to me reading up about the search for the Northwest Passage more, and perhaps some Canadian history as well.

But I particularly want to compliment the cast of The Terror, which is quite excellent in their roles; Ciaran Hinds is always terrific, as is Jared Harris. There is also a quite extraordinary Inuk actress, Nive Nielsen, who is giving an Emmy worthy performance. Tobias Menzies is also delivering; and I have a bit of a crush on him, and have ever since he played Brutus in the long-lamented two-season only series Rome, which I loved. I’m not sure what it is about Mr. Menzies that I find so appealing; he’s not classically handsome, but there is just something about his unusual jawline that I think is interesting.

I am quite looking forward to watching a few more episodes. I am also looking forward to the BBC America series Killing Eve, which is also available on the AMC app.

And Adam Rippon is killing it on Dancing with the Stars.

And now, back to the spice mines. I almost am finished with Chapter 13, and need to get some headway on Chapter 14.