The thing about the remnants of hurricanes is that you get quite a few days of soft, steady rain and perfect sleeping weather.
I’m really, technically, only through Monday of this week and I’m already exhausted and ready for the weekend. I have something every night this week. A lot is going on at work. It’s just a busy time. As it is, every year. Which I’m trying to keep in mind so that I don’t start to feel like I’ve lost my fool mind.
Yesterday, I either ate a piece of rat poop in my trail mix or a rotten peanut and it was horrible unlike anything I have ever experienced. My whole mouth flooded with the taste of poop and yet, nothing I spit out lessened it. I tried to barf, but it was no use. And all day, I felt like I could still smell it.
I still kind of think I can smell it. I know that’s just in my head, but it was so gross.
And I have my outfit for my reading at The Porch next week! It’s a literary costume party so I have a witch hat and a string of elephant bells and I’m going as…wait for it…the Bell Witch.
S. just brought me my witch’s hat, which I am now wearing because it makes me laugh.
I was walking along, near the treeline when I heard something very near me in the brush followed by menacing snorts. I know it was just a startled deer, which, frankly, made me feel like a submarine, silent and unnoticed in the sea of the night, but whoa, it also scared the shit out of me! My heart started racing, my hands started sweating.
And then I realized that deer was as alarmed as I was. We both had not realized someone else was so close and we both stood there a second, our hearts racing, and then we moved on. It was that moment of shared exhilaration that struck me.
I’m still listening to Limetown, for better or worse. This week’s episode was, indeed, for better or worse. But I was deeply moved by the story of the pig and the guy who learned to telepathically connect with it. The way the pig’s feelings were pure and deep felt true to me, and the value a person might get out of having access to those feelings, also true. As I walked past that deer, snorting in the early morning dark, feeling that kind of primal Oh!, I felt honored and surprised to share that with the deer.
This weekend, someone said to me, “Oh, that’s right. You’re into all that weird occult stuff, aren’t you?” I guess I’ve been into it long enough that it doesn’t seem weird to me anymore. These nine nights, not that there have been nine yet, I’ve been thinking a lot about connections, about the things that tie us together and, more importantly, the ways that crucial ideas get held onto. How the gods stay with us even once we’re monotheistic, almost unrecognizable.
Here, take this for example. Thor is a big guy, with a big beard, straightforward, with useful farm animals for pets. He carries a tool he can use as a weapon. He’s a friend to people and likes them a great deal. We’ve already talked about the ways our modern Santa Claus has some of those same trappings, how Santa seems to take the things we couldn’t leave behind about Odin and Thor and repackages them into something we can keep, even deep into Christianity.
But put Thor in your mind’s eye. Not the Marvel version. The big old brawny Viking. Now, give him some practical work pants, a flannel shirt, a stocking cap. Switch out his hammer for an ax, the goats for an ox. He’s still friendly and helpful to people.
But now he’s Paul Bunyan.
Even though I hate crowds, my one exception is the second weekend in October when I get to sit outside all day and talk books with people. Love it. Love it.
Did I show you the afghan I’m working on?
I also realized that I have to schedule my nine nights for next week. I don’t have nine other nights in a row this month when I don’t have stuff going on.
Every year I’m swamped in the fall and yet, this year, I’m surprised.
This story about these folks who cracked this 250-year-old code is really, really neat. And that they might have been a secret-society front for the Masons is even neater.
One nice thing about living in Tennessee is that I might, indeed, someday have to join a secret society in order to talk about dangerous ideas like “my vagina is not your property” and “I like smart people.” I already have the rest of the members of my order picked out.
I did almost nothing this weekend. I mean, I did it hard. I basically sat on the couch and played Civilization until I’d crawled so far in my head I had no choice but to crawl back out. The dog and I went for walks. I read some. But basically, I spent the weekend trying to get my brain to shut off.
Which, ha, is terrible, because there will come a time when I spend days trying to get my brain to turn back on, but that’s life.
The kids saw crawdads eating a snake skin. The crows alighted on lamp posts just ahead of me. I delivered the tripping jaguar afghan and it looks perfect in the room it was made to go in. I couldn’t be more pleased.
As I was walking this morning, the mist rose out of the hills in a layer, like someone was lifting a blanket. And it reminded me of “Beyond, Behind, Below,” which, maybe, is not my best story, but it’s the best I’ve ever done saying something true about this place, right here, and how it seems like it could be.
The guys are back watching wrestling again, which means I am, kind of, too. I had turned away for a long time because I felt like I was just watching people slowly killing themselves and, potentially, setting themselves up to kill others. Chris Benoit.
I still kind of feel that way.
But man, I love watching Paul Heyman, who doesn’t wrestle. He doesn’t do anything but shoot of his big mouth. And it’s glorious. I feel like you rarely see a man be such a perfect fit for the job he has, but dude is it.
I had a long, drawn-out nightmare about being terrible in bed, but with a partner too polite to say anything. And even typing that sentence makes me laugh. If ever there were a hangup I have about things, it’s being allowed to do them even when I’m terrible at them, everyone knowing I’m terrible, and people being too nice to say so.
Taunt me with something original, subconscious. God.
I haven’t been able to get on Tiny Cat Pants at work this week. It’s not actually blocked. They claim there’s some server misconfiguration, but I miss blogging at lunch!
Today I realized that, if our orange cat were a person, he’d be able to get his learners permit.
I had lunch with Sara yesterday and I poured out my book so she could tell me it sounded like a plausible book and not something I needed to trash, change my name, and move away over.
I want to write something about John Murrell and I wonder if I have time to do so.
Bah, I’m scattered and unfocused.
–Since I only have seventeen more squares to go, I feel like I’m almost at the end of the tripping jaguar afghan. But I can only do two or three squares a night, which means I’m still quite a way from the end of the afghan. I am now in the portion of the afghan I hate. I mean, I hate this afghan. I will love it again the first time I spread the squares all out on my bed and get a sense of what the final thing will look like. And I’ll love it the most when it’s all put together and drying and looks fantastic. But right now, every time I look at it, I’m just like “Seventeen is not that many. Why are you taking so long?!”
–I didn’t get Birdman. I mean, I got it. But, for me, it was like an overly elaborate kite that didn’t ever catch wind. The Butcher loved it. He laughed at parts the rest of us didn’t laugh at. He marveled at things. He was wowed by the ending. The Red-Headed Kid liked it, but the ending pissed him off so much that he went on this rant and then stormed out of the house.
–The Butcher thinks we should get a corgi that we could use to round up Sonnyboy when he runs off to the neighbor’s.
I’ve really been struggling this July to not be in a funk. But yesterday, I had lunch with nm, talked to the Professor for three hours! and then I’m taking today and tomorrow off to read and write and crochet and listen to podcasts. And early vote. And maybe tour a house or something.
I need to clear my head and just get out of my feelings for a bit.
–C & M have their afghan.
–T and her family stopped by, so they have their afghan and their copy of The Wolf’s Bane.
–I’m out of yarn on the Tripping Jaguar afghan, so that’s at a stand-still until my order comes in. I’m tucking ends. Woo. Luckily, since it’s self-striping yarn, each square only has two ends to tuck.
–I found a possum in the black dog’s dog food yesterday. That was startling. And today the black dog has gone home. The cats have not yet returned to the house, but I imagine that will happen soon. That was a long time. Not that I didn’t enjoy having him, but, whew, dude is high-strung. And likes to pace through the house at 4:30 in the morning.
–According to this here blog, on July 4th, I had 30,000 words of Ashland. Today I have just 200 shy of 48,000. So, I guess that’s going well. Ha ha ha. I’m leaning toward the Legend of Nathan Bedford Forrest story arc–here is a monster; here are some other bad guys; let’s unleash our monster upon them; oops, um, did we really unleash a monster? No, no, he’s not a monster. He’s a hero. Though I’m leaning toward the “Oops, did we really unleash a monster? Doot do doo. No, no, of course we’re not monsters as well.” We’ll see.
I’ve been just social butterflying around this weekend, having great conversations, getting my oil changed, discussing with children whether God is afraid of us. Child’s answer was along the lines of talking about the Flood and saying “Yes.” Which I found kind of profound and disturbing.
I wrote a hard part of Ashland this weekend and I’m feeling both proud and a little frightened. Which I guess is a good thing for a horror novel?
I think I have distilled my Harper Lee opinions down to the following: as readers, all we can do that is respectful of Lee’s agency, is believe that she does, indeed, want the book published and we can thus decide to read it or not based on whether it sounds like a good book (though I’ll note that none of the reviews I’ve read so far have actually said if the book is any good, which I find strange).
But my gut, as someone in the publishing industry, is that there’s a reason that Harper Collins is publishing a rough draft with a light copyedit–Lee isn’t up to the tasks an author has to perform during the publication process. My suspicion is that, if Lee were to try to perform those duties, it would be obvious to too wide a circle at Harper Collins that she wasn’t up for it and suspicions that she’s being exploited would move in people’s minds more firmly into fact.
I wish that Harper Collins had either issued WATCHMAN in some kind of critical edition–where the text was left as-is, but an expert of some sort provided contextualization and footnoting and other things–in other words, treated the manuscript like a kind of historical artifact OR that they’d put the book through the publishing process–genuinely editing it and providing the author the opportunity to shape it into a draft she felt proud of that suited the marketplace now.
I find the middle path they’ve chosen to be, at the least, disrespectful of WATCHMAN and Lee as an author and I will not be surprised if/when it comes out that Lee was not fully able to consent to the publication.
But, like I said, we can only go by what we’ve been told is Lee’s position. If it turns out we were lied to, we’ve not somehow betrayed Lee by reading the book.
I’m very close to done with the Return to Hill House afghan.
I’ve got another afghan in mind. Simpler but pretty, I think.
And I just found out that my brother’s divorce is final. My sister-in-law is no longer my sister-in-law!
I took today off and got some writing done on Ashland and some squares done on the Return to Hill House afghan and the dishes and laundry and lots of little stuff that had been kind of hanging there, waiting for me to get a chance.
And I heard that one of my favorite poets bought a copy of The Wolf’s Bane, so that’s very cool. And I sold four out of five copies of A City of Ghosts I had at Hypericon. Which was really fun–the con–well, and selling the books. I don’t really know what to say about it other than that it was neat. It’s just weird to think that you’re kind of doing this thing one way and boom here’s this whole crowd of people doing it with each other in this other way.
And, man, I tell you, they feed you! That was a fun surprise.
1. The octagon afghan. And it came out of the dryer so soft.
2. The story I told you about yesterday. I even sent it off on submission.
3. The first chapter of “Ashland.” It’s not perfect and, like all first things, will have to be revised substantially once I write the rest, but it’s done. And even, I think, kind of scary.
4. I am going with “Return to Hill House” for the replacement Hill House afghan. It’s lighter than the first and uses some different yarns. We’ll have to see how it goes.
I both want to be writing and to tour a historic home the tour guides believe is haunted. (Did I tell you guys that I saw a website the other day that claimed Isaac Franklin’s home is haunted by the people he bought and sold?! That must be crowded as fuck. 10,000 angry spirits.)
And I want to finish this afghan. You guys cannot believe all the tails that have to be tucked. I tuck and tuck and tuck and tuck and it’s so little progress. I mean, it’ll be done, soonish I imagine, but whew, I’m probably not doing another octagon afghan, even though I kind of like it better than the hexagons.
We went on our walk this morning and he was so pleasant and well-behaved and didn’t tug on the leash. He listened. He charmed the AT&T dudes. So, of course, when we got home, I found the world’s largest pile of poop right by the front door.
I don’t know.
He’s been being really weird about going out front lately. So, maybe he didn’t actually get off the porch last night.
I’ve also encountered a strange problem with the octagon afghan. It’s too hot to work on it very long. I wonder if I’m going to have to crank the air conditioning down to 68 to finish it.
Yesterday, I went on Living Your Best Life with Genma Holmes, a radio show here in town, with Chuck to promote The Wolf’s Bane. It was really cool. The studio is in Metro Center and overlooks the river and this woman sits at the console and just runs everything. I was completely in awe of her. Like some mix of being a band conductor and an air traffic controller.
Anyway, it was really cool and, when/if there’s a link, I’ll share it with you guys. I basically rambled on about Dr. Jack for ever. But I don’t care. People should know about him.
I’m going to buy the yarn for the Return to Hill House afghan today, even though I’m feeling like I’ll be very lucky if I finish up the octagon one this week. I kind of knew this was going to be the slow part, but I’m genuinely impressed with “too hot to work on it” as being the reason for the slowness. Oh, yeah, this is why I don’t make afghans in the summer. It’s hot.
I am done tail-tucking on the octagons and about halfway through with the squares. I should begin piecing things together this weekend, I imagine. I was going to sew my seams, but I’m now leaning toward crocheting them, just for strength. I swear to god, if this falls apart in the wash, I’m going to quit crocheting and become a weaver or something.
No, not until I have a workable Hill House afghan to give to C. & M. I have been wondering if I should call the afghan Hill House 2 or Return to Hill House. I like Return to Hill House.
I’m also fairly far along in my third attempt at a first chapter on Ashland. I’m taking it slow. Letting it be nerdy. Not aiming for more than a thousand words in any sitting.
I’m wondering if I should start a The Wolf’s Bane twitter or something. I could tweet the beasts from the bestiary or something. Just to drum up interest. I don’t know how to schedule tweets, though, so I guess I should look into that.
I’m getting a little anxious to hear from people if they liked it. I haven’t heard from anyone that they hated it, anyway. The people who had read it at the party on Friday all seemed really excited about it, so I hope that feeling carries through.
I have a ton of celery. So I made this celery apple soup that I found a recipe for online. And it called for a tablespoon of salt. I checked repeatedly because it just seemed like way too much salt. But there it was–a tablespoon. So, since I hadn’t made the recipe before, I went with it.
And, fuck yes, it was too much salt. I tried everything–the adding sugar trick, the adding starch trick, the adding water trick.
None of it worked.
And I didn’t finish the Hill House squares, not even the 63. But I’m going to try to get to 70.
And we have to eat that fucking salty soup again tonight.
1. The Butcher’s vehicle broke down in Gallatin, so I had to get up before dawn to go get him. I am wired on coffee and exceptionally tired.
2. I got some out-of-left-field news yesterday, unexpected and good, but also, unexpected.
3. I’m reviewing edits on a story and I am a little startled by how angry I’m getting at the copyeditor. I don’t often have the chance to be copyedited except when K. does it. The thing I guess I’m realizing is that I trust K. implicitly. I don’t trust this person I don’t know, because I don’t know him/her (I think it’s a her, but I’m not sure). And the thing is that her/his edits are fine. This is not about his/her work. This is some weird thing about me being all “NNNOOOOO!!!” (with growling bear noises) and then having to step back and ask myself if this is truly about the editing suggestion or about me. 90% of it is this weird feeling of wounded defensiveness. If I had a therapist, I guess I’d talk it through. Since I don’t, I’ll just mention it on the internet.
4. My parents are here. I’m taking them to the Country Music Hall of Fame tomorrow.
5. On Friday, I have to take dog poop to the vet.
6. So, you know, mixed feelings.
Every winter, I should just put a reminder on my calendar that I am morose during the winter. And that I will swing wildly the other way once I see the sun again. I have been really busy getting shit done. I love the Hill House afghan. I can’t wait to see it all laid out, but I really like how the part I have done feels.
I only feel a tiny bit bad about calling it the Hill House afghan because I do think it will be cozy and wonderful and I hope C&M don’t feel any weird, bad vibes off it.
I think I edited that Isaac Franklin piece harder than I have ever edited anything in my life. I am getting prouder of my willingness, at least in non-fiction, to write something as a way of getting started, and then cutting it away when the general shape of the piece clearly calls for a different kind of beginning.
But I only saw two people I wasn’t related to this weekend, which is good for getting shit done, but not good for feeling like you’re connected with the world.
My parents arrive very soon, so I spent some time cleaning. I was hoping the Butcher would also spend some time cleaning and then the house would be clean, but he spent the weekend helping friends get their house ready for sale. So… yeah. Butt I hope to have a nice visit with them and then I hope to see people I haven’t seen in weeks.
And I hope to get sincerely started on “Ashland.”
We’re a month out from the release of The Wolf’s Bane. We shall see, dear readers, we shall see.
1. The yarn to finish up the Hill House afghan is on its way.
2. The editor loves the Isaac Franklin piece.
3. I sold “The Four Gardens of Fate” to Apex magazine. Yes, there’s a Borges reference in there. And yes, I’ll have more details as I know them.
–I think my Isaac Franklin piece is pretty good. I’m curious and nervous about the editing stage. I don’t know if they’ll let it stand or if they talked me out of it, but I didn’t use the term “black people” in the piece at all. Just “people” and then, when needed, “white people.” That’s the one thing I came away from the Ben & Sue project most firmly convinced of. Who just get to be “people” in a story is who the reader identifies with. The [adjective] people always seem like someone other than where the reader’s sympathy is expected to lie.
–I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed that everything stays on track for The Wolf’s Bane.
–The trick with needing more yarn at this point in an afghan is that there’s always the temptation to revise the plan, to change the idea behind the afghan. Like maybe the rest of the squares should just be solid colors? But you can’t change horses mid-stream. Well, you can, but it’s a bad idea. The chaos of the Hill House afghan must carry us through.
1. The stripey afghan is taking so long. And I think it might need another skein of yarn after this one to be a usable size. I really like it. I find the gray part really soothing and I think it’s going to end up being really dramatic. I just wish I were closer to done. But I also want it to be awesome for S., so I need to make peace with it maybe needing another skein after this one.
2. Someone on Twitter said something about the comments on one of my Pith posts and so… yes. I know. I know. But I still did. And they did make me feel bad and weird. The weirdest was the guy who slagged on my writing there and then wished I’d go back to this blog, which he then demonstrated a certain level of familiarity with. Oh, hi, creepster! I actually find that more… not upsetting… that’s probably too strong a word, but disquieting than most commenters. You don’t like me, so that’s compelled you not to stop reading me, but to find out more about me?
How is this not a sign to someone that they’ve moved into “I’m behaving like a person who should be flipped off by people whenever I go out in public” territory?
3. My arm hurts from the damn dog. Not massively, but enough to make me mad all over again every time I tweak it.
4. I appreciate Eric Crofton’s answer to this question. Why do I continue to do this thing I’m not convinced I’m very good at? That all the folks covered in point 2. up there are happy to tell me I’m not very good at? Basically because it must be done.
5. The Butcher still has bronchitis. I love him, but I’m really used to a lot more alone time.
6. You think the hardest thing about writing a novel is writing it, just physically sitting down and cranking out 80,000+ words. And that is difficult. But there’s something to the difficulty of convincing yourself that it’s worth writing more words when no one gave a shit about the first couple of bunches of tens of thousands of words.
But it must be done. So, I’ll do it. As soon as I get done reading the four books I want to read–Absalom! Absalom!, House of Leaves, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Red Tree. At least three of these I have already read before, but this time, I want to pay closer attention to what I found satisfying and unsatisfying about them.
7. I’m calling my haunted house “Ashland,” because I think that may be one of the loveliest words in the English language. “Ashland City” is especially nice. It’s like licking an ice cream cone and, at the last second, your tongue snags on the waffle part.