Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Feel Better

Yesterday was the last of it. I got up after 12:30, in time for breakfast to be lunch and to see if the mail came with more books for me. I found myself with the shortest hours I ever encountered. Not any change in the season or rotation in the earth causing it, but just the day moving faster and faster, and me doing very little. Six hours later, it was already dark. I couldn't call any of the agencies I need to in order to see if I can get any of the interviews I need by saying that I only need 10-15 minutes, which will be fine if I can get these particular people, including, hopefully, a producer of two of the Airport movies and the director of Airport '77. Also no response from the agency that handles actor David Warner, who played flight engineer Peter O'Neill in '79. But by the time I thought to make those calls, it was already past 4 p.m. Not that I called, but I know people are getting ready to go home by then. And I had only been up for four hours! This was ridiculous!

A schedule like this also didn't leave me much time to read. All my time was focused on this project, and when could I possibly open up a book either related to this project or one that I'm reading on the side? The one on the side didn't matter so much since it was Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames, the second of her Cheese Shop Mystery novels. The problems with this novel which have made me not want to read the next one, is that her characters are crushed together this time at a fundraiser to the extent that not only is it hard to extract them (It's not hard to tell who is who, but there's not enough room to know them again like it was in The Long Quiche Goodbye), but the mystery felt overdone. All this urgency for this? Yes, it was bad, but even though this appeared to be a functioning Ohio town, everything seemed to stop at the sight of murder. Again. To me, Aames doesn't have the ability to keep a town running even as the investigation goes on. It's like the old sitcom trope of wondering if some of the people you're watching have jobs, and how they're able to afford what's in their apartments. It's distracting.

So, with having done nothing to contribute to the progress of my book, I decided that getting up after noon wasn't worth it anymore. I needed more time, even if it's just to read a book not connected to my work. I went to bed a little after 2 a.m. instead of 3:30, and woke up a few minutes before 7. Nearly five hours, and I couldn't get back to sleep after Dad and Meridith left for work. Sleep wasn't going to come back just because I was trying to will it back, and it was clear that my body was adjusting to this new schedule, so I eventually got out of bed, at 8:24.

Mom was surprised. She thought I had a phone interview to do. I told her that I went to bed earlier, and then had breakfast. Breakfast at breakfast time. That was another part of the problem, eating for the first time a little after 12:30, and then having lunch around 2:20 or so. I needed to spread out that time, and spread out my day.

I couldn't get through the rest of Lost and Fondue. I stopped at page 151, with 141 pages to go, completely frustrated with the lack of further development of these characters. The well-researched cheese knowledge wasn't enough to keep me stuck to this novel. Saveur magazine occasionally has articles about cheese, and they're a lot easier to get through.

I put that in the Goodwill box, went to my room and picked up I Thought You Were Dead by Pete Nelson, which I had been eyeing all the time that I was reading Lost and Fondue. Three days. If I'm not entirely wrapped up in my work, three days is way too long for me to read a book. I wanted to read I Thought You Were Dead because it's about a writer dealing with so much in life, such as his father's stroke, with his dog Stella to keep him as steady as he can be even with hanging out at Bay State Bar often. The premise here is that Paul and Stella can actually speak to each other. Yes, Stella actually speaks. The author doesn't make such a big show of it. It happens. They're that connected, and that's what made me want to read it, because I'm that connected to my dogs, like they are to me. They don't speak like Stella, but I know them as if they could.

This is one reason I'm going to continue going to bed earlier: That book was 288 pages. I read it all today. I liked it that much, and it also felt so good to be reading like this, just sitting there, becoming absorbed in this story. I've missed that, and yet I seem to keep letting it slip away. It's part of being a writer, it's what I have to keep doing, and it's what I should keep doing. So there's a book to write! It can only get better if I keep reading while I write it. It's strange that I have to remind myself of this, but I think I also need to stop reading a book if it's not working for me. I shouldn't have stayed with Lost and Fondue that long. What I liked so much about the first novel in the series was so obviously gone from this second installment and that should have been enough to make me leave it before the first witness was interviewed. There's some writers who say that you should read everything, even junk, so you know what not to do. I don't agree with that, finite lifespan notwithstanding. Because if you read what you like, then you become inspired by it enough to study and take in what the writer has done, and filter it through your own work. That's how it's always worked for me. I don't want to suffer through a bad book just to see what not to do. I think that's already apparent in the first 20 pages I've crawled through in any bad book.

I felt tired while sitting on the couch in the late morning, but I shook it off with a snack and I was awake again. I was good for the rest of the day. And it felt like an actual day today with a lot of hours to do what I wanted to do and what I needed to do. In the summer 2004 issue of The Paris Review, Haruki Murakami said that he goes to bed at 9 p.m., getting up at 4 a.m. to write for five or six hours. I can't do as he does, and I certainly can't go to bed at that time. It's not how I work. But he has a routine about his day and I need to click into that again. I can't feel listless like I did yesterday. I need more of today.

And so I shall continue pursuing that, and within a few days, I'll have it down. My body and mind will be better for it. I felt it already today.


  1. I tend to get my days and nights turned around. I'm more productive at night, but it's very difficult to call people. My granddog is named Stella. She loves me, and I love her.


  2. I tend to work an hour longer every night...until I'm only getting a few hours leading me to crash for 11-12 hours. Then the pattern resumes.

  3. I went to bed at 1:55 this morning, woke up at 7:20 (That's when Meridith calls to let Mom know that she and Dad are at work, and the phone ringing told me that), but felt too tired to get up then. So I gave in and then woke up at 11:34. Not what I wanted to have happen, but I'll still go to bed from 1:30-2 in the morning. I need this adjustment.

  4. It is very hard to choke down words that don't want to be ingested. I've done that with a few bestsellers to try and figure out what the big deal was. That's all it ended up to be, just one big deal.

    1. Conversely, yesterday I finished reading The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal, her latest novel, and now I must go through the pain of having to wait yet again for her next novel, which, tantalizingly, I learned is about food bloggers and an organic farm. She's still researching it, and said on her Facebook page recently, that she visited an Airstream dealer in Denver to "research what it feels like to be in a 16-footer vs. a 22-footer." To cope with having to wait, I'm going to reread her The Secret of Everything, which is what makes me want to travel throughout New Mexico.

      What also helps is that Erica Bauermeister, author of "The School of Essential Ingredients," one of my favorite novels, and recent author of "Joy for Beginners" (I liked it, but not as much as her first, though I probably should reread it for the pleasure of her gentle, detailed writing), cryptically said on her Facebook page: "Just scheduled my first book club call for 2013!" That sounds like her next novel will be out next year, which I really hope is true. And then there's Nicolle Wallace, from whom I still waiting for the third novel in her White House trilogy. I gobbled up "Eighteen Acres" and "It's Classified," and it was said in a Los Angeles Times article about her that the third book will take place entirely in the White House on the day of a terrorist attack. Same president, Charlotte Kramer, that has been in the previous two novels.

      So I can wait for Barbara O'Neal's next novel. Somehow.