Tusk

As Constant Reader is aware, I’ve always had issues with my weight and, by extension, my body. I am trying–the goal is, anyway–to get down to 200 pounds. I am currently hovering at a plateau of 212, with fluctuations running from 210-215. Tuesday I tried on a pair of pants I’ve not been able to wear for several years and they fit comfortably; yesterday was the true acid test of my black Levi’s–which I haven’t gotten on in almost four years.

Not only did they fit, they fit fairly comfortably…and as the day progressed so began the ever-green struggle to keep pulling them up constantly as they slid down. I don’t know what that means–other than the reality that jeans do stretch when you wear them–but I’d like to think my body shape has changed. That fifteen or so pounds I lost has made a difference.

Huzzah! Now, of course, I should use that as motivation to improve my bad eating habits and start going to the gym with some degree of frequency…and also need to keep reminding myself that no matter how sore I may get, or how tired, or how little I want to lift the weights–I always feel better afterwards.

I worked a little on the WIP yesterday–not as much as I would have like or preferred, but so it goes, you know? I am still reconstructing that first chapter, which, now that I’ve started pulling it apart and trying to put it back together to try to make it more compulsively readable, isn’t quite as good as I may have thought it was when I originally conceptualized, and wrote, it. A lot of that probably has to do with originally conceiving the book as first person/past tense; and now I am shifting it to first person-present tense, so the reflective tone of the opening paragraphs no longer works.

The opening sentence, which I’d loved, has to go: My mother ruined my life the summer before my senior year of high school.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a good opening sentence, but it doesn’t really work anymore. Choosing to write in the present tense–which most y/a fiction I’ve read recently seems to be in–changes that dynamic; plus I always seem, at least in the early draft stages, to have a tendency to create a reflective, looking-back framing device for the story, like my character is remembering how it all happened from the vantage point of the adult he now is–and that’s just reflexive and lazy writing on my part. (It’s not a bad device, I’m not saying that by any means; but I use it too frequently, or try to, at any rate. I blame reading Herman Raucher’s Summer of ’42, which used this device beautifully; as did Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides. Perhaps someday I will use it when it is appropriate and will work. I need to reread the Raucher; I bet it doesn’t hold up–primarily since it’s theme is about a teenaged boy who has sex with a woman in her twenties and he basically stalks her; hmmm, there could be a really interesting essay in there…)

I hope to get that first chapter revised, restructured, and rewritten this evening, since it’s one of my two short days this week; and tomorrow I can move on to the next chapters. I  started reading The Woman Who Fed The Dogs, part of my TWFest homework, and I also need to get that finished so I can read the last bit of my homework, Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife. 

Always, always, always so much to do!

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me!

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In America

Wednesday morning and it’s not quite sixty degrees yet this morning in New Orleans, so the space heater is on to take the chill out of my kitchen and my office space as I swill coffee and prepare for my day. I was exhausted yesterday, and fell asleep almost immediately after tumbling into bed. I had a fabulous night’s sleep, and this morning I feel very rested and well–although I could have easily stayed in bed for a while longer. Tomorrow morning I have to get up early because I have to have bloodwork done, but I am also in the home stretch of the week where the half-days are happening.

Huzzah!

I started–very slowly–revising the WIP’s first chapter last night. I’d always envisioned the book opening with the line The summer before my senior year my mother ruined my life, and while it is a great opening, it doesn’t really work with the story I am actually writing–while my character still believes that to be true, of course, as a framing device for the actual story my WIP has become it no longer works. For one thing, I am writing the book in a very close first person, present tense; so opening with a sentence and paragraph in the past tense, where he is obviously looking back to what happened that particular summer in Alabama, the shift in tense is awkward and abrupt and really doesn’t work anymore. I am horribly stubborn about this sort of thing, and it usually takes me much longer to give up and recognize that the opening I love so much has to go–so I am kind of pleased about that I’ve already gotten past that, to be honest. And the story is much better for it.

As I was writing those first ten chapters, too, I recognized holes in the plot when I saw them but, as is my wont, I simply made note of them and kept ploughing ahead. Part of the reason I want to go back and do a second draft of these chapters before I move on to the second half of the novel is because fixing those plot holes and cleaning up those mistakes will make writing the second half easier…and the book might go to twenty-five chapters, rather than the twenty I was thinking about. I”m not going to worry too much about length at the moment–that can always be worked out later–but I am very excited to be writing something new again.

And not to worry, Scotty fans–writing this doesn’t mean I’m not making notes and doing research for the next Scotty. I may not get to it until this fall, but I am going to get to it at some point.

Now I need to get on the stick and get my TWFest homework done. I have to have two books read by next weekend! This is ordinarily not a problem for me, but all kinds of crazy shit is going on around here. I have to have bloodwork done tomorrow, we have to start getting ready not only for the Weekend o’Festivals but also for the house tenting for termites that is going to occur that weekend as well–which means the easy day I have planned for that Friday is turning into a nightmare–I have to take the cat to board; I have to clean out our freezer because the power will be off; I have a doctor’s appointment that day; I have to figure out how to get all my stuff down to the hotel in the Quarter without the car (no fucking way am I paying hotel parking in the Quarter); and how to get ready for that evening’s parties and so forth….then the following Monday, also a day off for me, will require me to retrieve the cat and the car and everything else.

Just thinking about it is making me tired.

But on that note, I am heading back to the spice mines.

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I Wanna Be Your Lover

So, Facebook was apparently wonky yesterday, and so was Instagram. I rarely go to Instagram–I’m not really sure what the point of it is, and I mostly follow male fitness models because I like to look at pictures of pretty men, feel free to judge me for this–but I did have some things I wanted to post on Facebook yesterday which kept failing on me. But the wonkiness kept me off of there for most of the day, and I have to say it was kind of lovely.

I am loving Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, as I knew I would. This weekend I am going to have to spend most of my free time reading, because I still have two more books to read to prepare for my panel and time is running out.

Yesterday the box o’books for Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories arrived, and it looks fantastic. I can’t tell you, Constant Reader, how pleased I am with what Bold Strokes has been doing with the packaging of my books. Great covers, the interior with Janson (my favorite font); they look terrific, and I couldn’t be more pleased. It’s been a while since I got a box o’books; the last Todd Gregory novel came out in January of 2018, and this is the first fiction I’ve published since then (I don’t count anthologies, even though my name is on the spine). Yeah, I know that’s just over a year, but for me that’s a long time.

And no, the feeling of opening up a box o’books with my name on the cover still hasn’t gotten old.

I am really looking forward to getting the box o’books for Royal Street Reveillon.

I had hoped to have the first draft of the WIP finished by the end of this month, but I don’t really see how I can do that while getting the reading done that I need to do for my panel…which means, I suppose, that I’ll have to rejuggle my calendar for the year. Ha ha ha, like I actually have taken the time to make a to-do calendar for the year. I’ve not even been making to-do lists. Maybe this is why I’ve felt so at-sea this year; I should get back on that and get back to normal.

I started watching The Order on Netflix last night, per the recommendation of some of my co-workers, and I kind of enjoyed the first episode. It is a paranormal show of some sort, but it, like True Blood (and the grandmother of all these shows, Dark Shadows), doesn’t take itself seriously and there are some seriously funny moments on the show. I also watched the first episode of Gregg Araki’s new show on Starz, Now Apocalypse, and also am intrigued enough to watch more. American Gods is also apparently back for its second season, which is something else I can watch during these last few weeks pre-Festival while Paul is working around the clock.

My new computer was delivered yesterday–I did wind up ordering a new MacBook Air on-line on Monday (not that there’s anything wrong with the HP Stream; there’s not, but it’s a long story I won’t bore you with and it doesn’t hurt to use it as a back-up in case of other issues AND this way when we travel we won’t have to share a laptop which is always aggravating), and it did arrive and I am picking it up this morning on my way to the office. Today and tomorrow are, of course, my half-days, which is lovely, and so I can come home tonight and get things started on cleaning around here as well as reading, and then tomorrow I can make groceries on the way home and be in for the weekend. This weekend is St. Patrick’s Day, which means parades and day-drunks roaming around the neighborhood, so not leaving the house is optimal.

And on that note, I should return to the spice mines. Happy Thursday, Constant Reader,

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Refugee

Tuesday was yet another night of non-deep sleep; in which again I spent most of the night asleep than half-asleep then awake: lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m holding Daylight Saving Time solely responsible for this horror, I might add, because I was sleeping beautifully before this.

But last night was good; I slept through the night and feel very rested and very much better this morning. I made it through the rough part of my week and now have the easy, downhill path to my weekend. Being tired, I’ve accomplished little of note this week; I am not even keeping up with my emails…but now that I am past those two days and I’ve slept well, maybe now I can get caught up on everything I’ve tragically fallen behind on.

I do so hate when that happens.

But if I put my head down and just start ploughing through, I should tear through it all in no time. (Famous last works, no?)

But I sent the finished manuscript for Royal Street Reveillon in on Sunday, and I think part of the exhaustion (and not sleeping) comes from the inevitable relaxation and sudden drop of stress resultant from finishing a book. I always forget, from book to book, that there’s always about a week’s worth of resetting my brain that is required, and I rather stumble through that week, zombie-like, as my burnt out mind slowly resets and recovers. Bearing this in mind, I decided that it’s silly to beat myself up over not getting back into the current WIP immediately; I stopped that nonsense yesterday morning when the realization dawned, through my foggy, tired brain, that this is normal. So I’m going to instead spend this week getting focused on resetting everything, reevaluating where I’m at on things, and reading. The festivals are in two weeks, and I’ve got to finish my homework before the panel I’m moderating.

I’ve also got a diversity column to write for the next issue of the Sisters in Crime quarterly newsletter.

So, today I am going to focus simply on reading Alafair Burke’s fabulous The Better Sister, making a to-do list, organizing my bills, and figuring out what I need to get done by the end of the year; I also need to probably go back and figure out what projects I was planning on doing/working on this year.

It’s all about resetting.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Wait for Me

The first Monday after the time change is always the worst, isn’t it?

I was thinking, as I went to bed last night and didn’t feel tired in the least, that I’ve had several weeks running of good sleep, and I wondered if the time change would affect that. Sure enough, it did; I wasn’t deeply asleep ever all night, instead in that miserable half-sleep where you know if you open your eyes you’ll be awake. I fucking hate that, and as such, am feeling really tired and sleepy and frayed this morning; so much so that I even considered calling in sick for a brief moment. It’s currently pitch-black outside–which doesn’t help, and it’s seventy-three degrees, with a high of eighty-four forecast.

Complete and utter madness–which also means my sinuses are also acting up a bit, which probably also has something to do with feeling miserable this morning. But I am also confident I can make it through the week…if I can survive today and tomorrow, that is.

I wrapped up the final copy edit of Royal Street Reveillon yesterday, preparatory to turning it in today, and really feel terrific about it. I honestly believe it’s the best Scotty I’ve done since the original three, and writing it off contract was definitely the smart way to go with the book. I am probably going to spend this week mostly thinking rather than writing; I am going to reread the ten chapters I’ve already got written of the WIP and figure out what tweaks are necessary to those before finishing the second half of the book. I’ve got my main character pretty much figured out now, but there are also some issues with the plot and the pacing I need to get figured out. I also kind of need to figure out how to deal with April’s revision of the old WIP (as opposed to the current WIP) and how precisely I want to make that work.

As I’ve said before, I’ve been trying to force it to work based on an original story idea that has morphed over about thirty years into about five or six different plots and stories…but I’d also forgotten that I’d essentially used all the characters from that original idea for Sara, so yeah, I have to have new characters. The primary theme of that story, I think, is alienation, and that’s key to revising the hell out of it.

Ah, the writing life. Always such a joy.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Stand by Me

Friday; the last day of my work week and it’s a half-day, at that. How lovely.

Or it would be, but I have to go to Metairie to the Apple Store this afternoon. My laptop is acting funny, and I really really don’t want to replace it. Granted, it is eight years old, and it may not even be fixable, but it doesn’t hurt to find out one way or the other. Yesterday morning some long black lines showed up on the left of the screen, and the images beneath the lines were flickering. Heavy heaving sigh.

It never fails, does it? I was just starting to feel a little bit more comfortable. That’ll teach me, right? Plus this is throwing a monkey wrench into my plans for the weekend. Oh, okay, yes, I had only a two and half day work week, sure. But still. I was really looking forward to not leaving the house this weekend. Heavy heaving sigh.

Ah, well. It is what it is. The worst part of the trip to Metairie is going to be returning to the city during rush hour. Just thinking about it turns my stomach…heavy heaving sigh. Now i am also thinking I should have made the appointment for Saturday and kept my Friday as originally planned.

Paul and I started watching You on Netflix this week, and I have to say I was most impressed with it. At first I was like, oh, okay, a stalker story where the girl falls in love, unknowingly, with her stalker. I’ve seen this before, thank you very much and thought I’d give it an episode or two…but then the first episode took a much darker turn that I didn’t see coming and that woke me the fuck up. I am looking forward to watching the rest of the show now…alas, with the festivals looming on the horizon, Paul is terribly busy so leisure watching isn’t really a priority for him these days.

I am still feeling a little bit out of it this morning; like my life is something I’m watching on television and not actually participating in. Needless to say this is a bit disorienting. I’ve not been doing as much creative thinking this week as I would have preferred, but this entire week has been an exercise in “just make it through till the weekend”; I’m not sure why that is, but it has been. I also feel very disconnected from the world at large; Carnival always has this weird tendency to separate us here from the rest of the country and the rest of the world and what’s going on out there, and these days the news moves so quickly that it’s impossible to get caught up on what’s happened during the parades.

I did do some creative thinking yesterday, about the long-abandoned and pushed to the side used-to-be-WIP. I had already decided to do one last revision of it and turn it in to my publisher; it’s what I am going to do once I finish the first draft of the current WIP. I also am going to start doing my research on the next Scotty; I suppose that makes it kind of official that I am going to do a ninth one. But don’t get too excited, Scotty fans; I am going to have to finish these other two first and there’s another first draft I want to write before I get to the Scotty; a gay noir I’ve been wanting to write for quite some time. That would be Muscles, and over this weekend one of the things I want to get done is pulling all of the material I want together (that I already have on hand) for the next three manuscripts. I am also going to go over Royal Street Reveillon one more time; one final read and copy edit before it finally is turned in for good.

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

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Deja Vu

Ash Wednesday!

Carnival is over for yet another year, and today it’s back to work and farewell to the flesh and all of that. We separated and sorted the beads last night, clearing off the coffee table, and now have several bags I’m going to drop off at the library donation spot this Saturday. Today is about heading back into reality; vacation is over along with Carnival, and today is about getting back on that horse. Heavy sigh. Obviously, my preference would be to stay home.

Yesterday was a day off for me; no social media, no emails, nothing. I spent the morning, after writing yesterday’s blog, reading Lori Roy’s superb Gone Too Long, which I am still digesting. There’s a review to come–the book isn’t released until June or July–but I want to spend some more time digesting the book and thinking about it before I write anything about it. It’s fantastic, as all Lori’s books are, but this one–and I hesitate to say this about books as a general rule–is important in some ways. I do think it’s probably going to be one of the year’s best; again, that usually is the case with any Lori Roy novel.

I also started reading Alafair Burke’s The Better Sister, which is off to a rousing good start. This is part of my homework for the panel I am moderating for the Tennessee Williams Festival this year, and what a curse to have to read some fantastic books this month, you know?

I also scribbled notes in my journal for the WIP and a future Scotty, along with some notes on short stories and so forth. This most recent rejection of a short story has made me realize the stories have to dig deeper, and that’s what I am going to do with the next versions of the stories–I need to figure out who the characters are in my stories and build the stories outward from there. Usually, when I write a story, it begins as a fragment of some sort–an overheard conversation, a sentence defining who a character is–and then I build from there.  I think what I need to do going forward is branch out and write the story from its original kernel, and then break it down into its separate parts.

It’s always a learning process, isn’t it?

I also read another story from Norah Lofts’ Hauntings: Is There Anybody There? 

The story is called “Pesticide”:

“And what about Jennie?” It was an old problem and the question made a kind of chorus through my life. My sister Angela was ten when I was born; my brother Bill, twelve, Margery almost fifteen. My mother had actually resumed work and I can imagine that my arrival caused her considerable inconvenience. Inconvenient–though far from unloved–I had remained; too young to share pastimes, interests, holidays; “a drag” as Angela had once said when Mother urged her to take me on a picnic.

Now, in June, as I was recovering–rather slowly–from having my tonsils removed, both my parents, archaeologists, were invited to join a “dig” in Turkey; Angela was perfecting her Italian in Perugia; Bill was doing a stint of good work with the Labrador Mission and Margery’s exact whereabouts were unknown. The last communication was from Libya, where she had a job as secretary-interpreter to a Dutchman who had a firm in Tripoli. It was a postcard of some splendid Roman ruin and it said, tersely, “Shall not be here long. will write.” No letter had arrived; nobody worried. As a family we were happy-go-lucky as well as cosmopolitan. But even my parents jibbed at the idea of leaving me alone in the house.

Several ideas were discussed and discarded for this reason or that; and then Mother had an inspiration. “I wonder if Effie could have her.”

Effie, it turns out, was the live-in housekeeper/nanny/cook/babysitter who left the family before Jennie was born; she married and moved away. So Jennie now is sent to stay with Effie and her new husband–who is a monster of the worst sort, making Effie completely miserable and Jennie–a rather precocious ten year old–decides to take matters into her own hands.

Not really a ghost story, but it’s definitely Gothic and very chilling.

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