Old Things

I saw a dear old friend yesterday at lunch. I hadn’t seen her in years and it was good to catch up and too short.

Then I dreamed that a mutual friend of ours, who I haven’t seen since grad school, and I were on a car trip, driving home from somewhere in Michigan and we stopped at my Grandma’s house in Battle Creek, which was, of course, not her house this time, but the house full of people from where I graduated high school.

The guy who stalked me was there. He lived in that house. And he worked at Burger King. And I stole his hat and threw it through the brazier, which upset him and I told him I’d buy him another one. And then we left.

As dreams usually do, it sounds stupid when I type it up.

But man, it’s weighing on me this morning. It’s the two things that weigh on me all the time: In what ways am I hidden from myself in ways that are harmful to myself and others? How am I here when so many people I know are smarter or more creative or more deserving (which, yes, I hate that word) are not?

The magnitude of luck that has brought me to this point is immeasurable. That’s what I keep thinking.

But the thing about the weight of the dream is that it reminds me that lucky and happy are the same word at heart and part of the weight is that I don’t experience them as the same thing. Being lucky in this way–me being here, the guy who stalked me working fast food–it doesn’t make me happy. I feel grateful, don’t get me wrong.

But I’m always waiting for the world to be set back right. I am so far out beyond where I was taught I’d be allowed. I never feel like “Oh, well, it is what it is and the things I was taught were wrong.” Well, that’s not true. I feel like that in the light of day all the time.

But at night, I know the scales are uneven and tipped in my favor. And I know every story of the gods monkeying around with the fate of a person leads to that person’s eventual downfall. You can’t be lucky all the time.

And yet, I don’t have the things I want. I want to write a damn fine haunted house story that people love. I want it to be published by a publisher who will get it into bookstores. I want to be able to walk into Parnassus and Barnes & Noble in my own town and see it on the shelf.

And that’s farther out, scales tipped even more ridiculously. I can’t do it. There’s just no way to be that lucky, considering how far luck has brought me. It just can’t hold.

But I have to try for it.

Not 100% In Love

octagon afghan 1 octagon afghan 2

So, once I get all the ends tucked, this is how it will go together. Obviously, not with non-gray yarn, but I wanted to see what I was doing. I don’t love, love it. I kind of wish the squares were big enough to fit in the hole correctly, but they’re just a hair too small.

Oh well, I’m sure it will be fine. And, technically, this way appears to make my squares octagons.

One of the people who came Friday night told me he likes my writing because I write like a man. Today I realized I should have asked him how he knew about the severed dick I type with. And now I can’t stop giggling at the thought of trying to hit these stupid keys with a penis. I mean, maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, but I’d like to believe my dick would be all ikj azsmjk tfryhupolikjnhjgtf whenever I was trying to typle “I am typing.” I believe myself swaggery enough to have a three key dick, if I were to have one.

Just, guys, I love you but any variation of “you’re not like other girls” isn’t the compliment a lot of you think it is.

It Was Wonderful!

People came out and they bought books and I saw a lot of people I know and a lot of people I didn’t know. It was so much fun to see how excited people were about just how good it looked. I read a little and then everyone sang Happy Birthday to me and it was marvelous.

I wore the blue dress the Professor insisted I buy a million years ago, but I was too chickenshit to wear it before now. But then I put it on and I thought, “Well, I’m being brave in all kinds of ways, let’s just fucking be brave.”

And, if I looked too grossly rashy no one mentioned it.

The two best parts of the evening were when the little kids all played werewolf and howled in the front area and when I gave the book to Tom, who let me insinuate in the book that he’s a werewolf, and he was so delighted and surprised. It was really wonderful.

Books

Today I went over and signed expensive books. I was surprised to realize that they smell, because they’re bound in leather. Everything about them is just so nice. They look amazing. They smell amazing. The weight of it in my hand is amazing.

wolf 9 wolf 8

All The Feelings

People keep asking me if I’m excited about the book and I am, truly, excited and happy. But there’s just been a lot, which is gauche to talk about publicly, which makes me, more than anything, just feel sometimes relieved that it’s almost over. For eighteen months people have been telling me that it’s just about to happen and asking me if I’m excited and then seeming disappointed when I can’t maintain the same level of excitement or more excitement over that whole time period.

I’m relieved and satisfied and kind of sad and kid of happy. But I’m not unabashedly excited. I’m nervous. I want people to like it.

Maybe I’m wired screwy, but I don’t see the books and think “Woo!” for me. I don’t experience them as something awesome that is happening to and for me. I look at them as the culmination of a lot of hard work a lot of people did to make something nifty for whoever reads it. If anyone reads it. Which I hope they will, obviously.

I just don’t experience the end of this being me having books in hand. I experience the end of it as readers having books. I’m excited and nervous and hopeful to see what you guys will make of it.

So, I don’t mean to disappoint people when they look at the book and they ask me if I’m excited. I just don’t really think my excitement is all that important. I want the reader to be excited and I don’t yet know if that’s the case.

Friday

Just to recap for locals making weekend plans:

The launch party is at East Side Story at 6 p.m. I suspect actual doings won’t start until 6:30. You can pre-purchase copies here (and that’s the only way for out of town people to get books that I know of at the moment). You don’t have to pre-purchase copies. Plenty will be available at the event.

But once they’re gone, they’re gone.

I Thinked My Thoughts

I’ve been mulling over whether now’s the time to grab onto the golden ring of non-fiction writing and I think I’m not going to. The thing is this: I don’t really like it that much. I obviously don’t dislike it. And I look forward to finding other weird things to tell people about.

And maybe I’ll never be a really great fiction writer.

But that’s where my heart is. And since I’m never going to be massively successful at either, why not stick with the one I like best?

I’m, still, a bag of nerves. I’m trying to keep from emailing and demanding updates on The Wolf’s Bane ever 15 minutes.

Nerves

The Wolf’s Bane comes out next week. It’s been such a long slog. And I’m nervous something will happen and that the books won’t be there or they’ll all cause people rashes or… I don’t know.

But, ugh. And woo.

Did I Ever Tell You What This Book is About?

It just dawned on me this morning that, probably, many of you have not been following along for years nor subjected to my fainting-couch-worthy histrionics about this book and so, even though you know there’s a book usually referred to as “Project X” and sometimes referred to by its title, The Wolf’s Bane, you might not actually know what it’s about.

So, here’s the deal. The premise is that there’s always been a werewolf in Nashville and that various people throughout Nashville’s history have found themselves having to deal with the werewolf. The book is a collection of their experiences and any wisdom they may have gained from their fight. There’s an herbal full of plants that might be useful, fragments of how Jack Macon dealt with the werewolf while it was Sam Houston, a bestiary of unusual Tennessee canids, and the story of a fake biography of Howlin’ Wolf. And the book, itself, is an object used against the werewolf. So, if you get the book, you are impressed into the cause. The book is the story of the book you hold in your hands.

But, for those of you who’ve been around for a while and who know I love to write about how the Devil makes Nashville his summer home, know this–the book is all about him having a grave theological crisis, which he resolves through picking on a Methodist minister, killing a couple of hippies, and seducing a librarian. As you do, when you’ve been pouting around this area for 300 years (ambitious devils got in with the Spanish and our guy… well, he got a backwater with one Frenchman to antagonize).

This story has a lot in common, but is not quite the same as the story in A City of Ghosts, but I hope you’ll see that as the problem with trying to take the Devil at his word, and not some kind of continuity error. In other words, it’s different on purpose, not on accident.

It is truly a limited edition, so when they’re out, they’re out. Here’s where to order it and that’s all I know.

The Wolf’s Bane Release Party

Details are here. Please come if you’re in town. My understanding is that the $300 ones are going pretty quick, so, if you want one, I recommend pre-ordering it. (Remember, they’re only doing 30.)

The $30 ones will be available at Chuck’s shop, but, if you can’t go to Chuck’s shop, he’ll mail you one if you pre-order it. And once they’re out, they’re out. So that’s what I know.

Clowning Around

clown

Yesterday I went back up to Gallatin for the thing they were having out at Bledsoe’s Fort–a bunch of reinactors from the early days. It was all very interesting. I talked dolls with a woman for a long time, Native American tattoos with a couple of Indians who lectured me on how stupid they thought the term Native American was, and weaving with a guy who does the whole nine yards from flax to linen, which was really interesting. I always imagine with things like that, which require multiple steps, or, think about, say, cake making or any kind of baking really, when it’s more than just “Here’s a raw thing. Put it on heat until it’s cooked.” and I think of the people who first figured it out and I wonder a lot about them. All those steps. How long did it take you to figure out how to take them?

I also met this clown, who did not speak, but she blew my mind. She hand-made this outfit. The stitching, which she let me look at, was extraordinary. I tend to find clowns creepy, but I thought she was beautiful. And she was like if a contortionist and a dancer had a happy baby. That was her act, leaping and tumbling and juggling. It didn’t feel so far removed from something sacred.

One part of last week was hard. Not in a bad way hard. Last week was fucking awesome (and I’m fully expecting this week, when it runs in the paper, to be a lot less fun).

But here’s the thing. I think of myself as a blogger, first and foremost, and someone who aspires to write amazing ghost stories. I don’t really consider myself to be a straight up fantasy writer or a straight up horror writer. I just think of myself as writing ghost stories. All my stories are about a past that comes creeping up on you, no matter how buried. And I like it that way.

The non-fiction I write, I normally write because I have learned something interesting that I might want to use in my fiction later that I think other people also might find interesting. Sometimes I don’t end up using it. Sometimes I just find it really interesting and want to share it with other people because I think it helps me make better sense of where I live.

And I have this ghost story I really want to write.

But some of the responses to the Isaac Franklin piece make me wonder if I should go back to the Nashvillains book and let the ghost story sit. And I don’t know.

Right now would be the time to have a plan and goals, but I genuinely am not sure what I should be doing next.

We also went to see Age of Ultron yesterday and, though I thought it was good, I thought the clown was better and I’ve been thinking a lot about why. And I genuinely think it’s because she stood under a tree with a very few props and yet I felt like something transcendent was brushing right up next to me. I marveled at her (if I might be excused for using that word) and I didn’t at the movie. Also, I think I’m becoming some kind of strange old romantic softy in my own way as I get older, but I find “we can’t be together” storylines irritating not compelling.

Anyway, that’s where things are here. Which thing deserves my attention? How do I see myself?

I’m not sure.

The Wolf’s Bane Details, As I Know Them

The book launches May 22nd, with a thingy that evening at East Side Story. I don’t know the time yet. But I will read, maybe we’ll watch the trailer again, perhaps we’ll all sing an a capella version of “Long Black Veil” so beautiful the moon weeps. Books will be for sale.

Here’s the deal on the books. There’s one edition that is what they call an artist’s book–a handbound art object that comes with actual prints of the artwork and a box and probably other stuff I don’t know about. They’re doing 30 copies of this book and it’s $300. If you want one, if I know anyone who can afford that, I’d recommend not waiting to buy it, because now is before the libraries and collectors start laying claim.

Then there are 300 copies of the $30 paperback, hopefully being printed as I type. On the one hand, I expect it may take a while for those 300 to sell. On the other hand, if every artist involved’s family buys ten, that’s a fourth gone right out the gate.

Anyway, here’s the link to buy online again.

Things Happen and then You Break Out the Jameson

The motherfucking New York Times is recommending people read what I wrote. The guy, the guy of “that guy who’s writing the Isaac Franklin book” whose name I never could find out, even he motherfucking contacted me and told me he liked my piece. .Even my dad is bragging on Facebook. I’m texting and emailing people and telling them I love them. Because I do, dear readers, love you. I don’t know why this is happening. I mean, the I love yous are because I’m fucking drunk. But why? Who knows? Let’s just enjoy it.

NYTimes pick

Who Tells the Story?

I was feeling so good yesterday that I thought I’d start Ashland. So, I did, three times. And, you know, I don’t think I have the right point of view. I’d thought that I wanted first-person from someone in the house. But I think that’s not going to work.

I think I need someone telling the story from a more omniscient perspective.

Usually, when I write, I have a good sense of who’s telling the story and then we just go along to see what the story is. This is the first time I’ve ever felt like I know the story, I just don’t yet have a good sense of who’s telling it, or why.

So, This is What It’s Like

All day long, people complimented me on the Isaac Franklin piece. And it felt wonderful. If anyone didn’t like it, they didn’t tell me. Which was also wonderful.

I feel proud.

And relieved.

I kind of want to cry a little bit, but I can’t articulate why.

Strange Things

One thing about “Ashland” is that, even as I’m daydreaming about it, I feel like it must have been done a hundred times. A million. Everything seems so cliched. Of course X. Which lead to y.

Which is why it keeps weirding me out that I can’t find any Southern haunted house stories.

It’s my favorite grad school phrase! “Always already!” It seems like there always already had to be a story like this.

Its absence is eternally confusing to me.

I Have Long-Standing Artistic Concerns

This morning, I was rifling through my documents folder to see if I had “stupidly” made a file containing my gmail password. I had not. But I did find a file entitled “What makes things scary?” It was pre-A City of Ghosts.

Maybe I’m not any better at figuring it out.

I’m really excited about The Wolf’s Bane. My head says to be cautious and to expect at least one more disaster. My heart says, “A month, a month. It’s out in a month!”

It’s even getting a real review, which I am completely nervous about.

The Grid

I started a grid for “Ashland.” A spreadsheet that maps out each characters’ crises and the things leading up to them. I’m going on a model of “build-up,” “scary thing,” “crisis,” “new circumstance,” with each character experiencing roughly four crises of various intensity. This should, I think, give me a lot of scary things happening.

It already gave me a good idea of the kinds of things that need to happen in the middle of the novel.

Plus, my goal is not to have everyone hitting their plot points at the same time, but to make sure that they’re hitting them–that they have their own narrative arcs and aren’t just interactive scenery for the main character.

The thing I’d like to figure out is how to leave them in the grid so I can be sure I like each character’s arc, while also somehow ordering them so that I can see what has to happen in what order. Like, the church lady can’t come to the house to help one character until the other character goes to church and meets her.

I’m thinking about some kind of color coding, I guess? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just number things?

Anyway, the thing that I’m still wrestling with is how to plot to ratchet up the creepiness.

I don’t really know what I’m doing, I guess I what I’m trying to say.

Fallen

I watched Fallen this weekend, which I hadn’t seen in a million years and, wow, is that a well put-together story. One thing they do a really good job of is suggesting bigger stories that you’re only seeing a part of. We don’t know why Jonesy is so loyal to Hobbes, but we see that he’s loyal to and protective of him. We infer there’s some big backstory. I also felt like, this time through it, something had happened to Art–that he hadn’t always been disabled, but that his situation, his frailty, an absence of a wife, that he had custody of his son and that his son was not utterly surprised when he died, seemed to suggest something had happened to him. A car accident maybe? I don’t know. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

And I felt like they laid a lot of groundwork to suggest that the kid might have some kind of story of his own later.

It’s something to remember–that you don’t always have to explain what your characters think is normal and not worth commenting on.

Perennials, I Roll My Eyes

I think the Isaac Franklin thing is in good shape. As is the thing for the Scene.

I have planted a climbing rose and some foxgloves and planted all my seeds. I chased the dog around and now I am exhausted. Which is good because I haven’t been sleeping well this week.

So, I think this means I’m justified spending the evening listening to podcasts and working on my afghan. I was booking along on it and then I got distracted by all this writing stuff.

I’m giving the stripey afghan to S. on Sunday and I am both excited and a little bummed. I don’t know what exactly it is about that afghan, but it’s a favorite. I think both because it was super easy and looks super great. I will miss you, stripey afghan! But you go to a place with a porch and some still cool evenings ahead.

You know, I just realized that, if I had had coffee with a friend this morning, I would have spent my day doing all my favorite things.