You’ve heard me go on and on about my favorite band James, whose lyrics I’ve used in my last two books and, hopefully, the next one as well. Their latest album, Living in Extraordinary Times, was released a year and a half ago, and is essentially a protest album (the cover shows a hand grenade made from flowers). They came to the States last summer touring this album and I got to see them in NYC and Denver, and was even able to have a private dinner with lead singer Tim Booth. One of the things we spoke about at that dinner was how surreal the world had become, and how what once was familiar had become hardly recognizable.
That was last July. If only we knew.
During these extraordinary times I find myself gravitating toward gratitude more and more. I’m grateful to have a house, yard, and neighborhood that I love. I’m grateful to have kids who are not only handling a stay-at-home order with incredible maturity, but actually get along despite being stuck with each other for days on end. I’m grateful for having my partner Jessica to go through these challenging times with. And I’m grateful that I already had, like, six bottles of hand sanitizer before all this shit started going down.
In terms of writing, not much has actually changed for me. Of course, there are a lot of people telling me, “You should make this into a book!” These are people who don’t realize that 1) why write a book about it when you can just turn on CNN? and 2) biological-disaster thrillers have been written a thousand times before. Hell, even Dean Koontz’s 1982 novel The Eyes of Darkness featured a biological weapon named “Wuhan-400.” Not to mention movies like Outbreak or Contagion, or the impossibly timed January release of Netflix’s Pandemic. (Jessica watched one episode and decided it was too much reality for her).
No, I’m still writing my nice little story of a man slowly going insane inside his New Hampshire mansion. I’m disappearing into that world for 500 or so words a day, keeping my routine much as I did a month ago. As I’m nearing the end of this book, it’s tempting to plow through the final 10,000 words, but I’m savoring it, not writing too much at a time, and by doing so realizing a deliberate pace is giving me more time to decide how the story ultimately resolves. I seem to change my mind daily.
That’s another thing for which to be grateful. Being a writer, and needing nothing more than a laptop and a chair to do my job . I get to make up stories, which allows me to escape all the world’s tragic non-fiction for a little while every day.
Other things I’ve found helpful? Exercise, absolutely. Every day, if possible. Meditation (which I need to do more regularly). Discovering new shows with Jessica. Watching off-color movies with my kids. Taking more time to read, and discovering new authors. Buying weird board games, like Throw Throw Burrito. House projects, like painting walls or redecorating rooms. Rediscovering yard work, which I used to hate but now view with only a mild disdain.
We’re okay out here in Colorado. We are safe and healthy, taking things day by day. I hope the same for all of you. Let’s all be nice to each other, stay calm, listen to good advice, and wash our hands. And put on sunscreen everyday, even if you don’t leave the house. You should always wear sunscreen.
Extraordinary times, indeed.
Meet the Author
I just hosted my first online event open to the public, and may do another. But I’m always happy to Skype/Zoom into any virtual book club where one of my novels is being discussed. Just email me!
What I’m Reading
Hunters in the Dark, Lawrence Osborne (2016, Hogarth). Quite honestly, I don’t even know where this book came from. It’s been on my nightstand for some time, hard cover. I think it was a gift. Anyway, I picked it up a few weeks ago and disappeared right into it. Mostly literary fiction (with a touch of thriller), Hunters in the Dark follows 28-year-old British schoolteacher Robert Grieve on his summer holiday in Thailand. Grieve makes the sudden decision to simply disappear from his old life, and he slips over the border into Cambodia and into a whole new world. With this momentous decision comes all the randomness of life’s events, some beautiful, many dangerous.
What makes a book “literary fiction?” Good question. There’s no definite answer, but, like pornography, you know it when you see it. Osborne weaves an intriguing plot that is heavy on atmosphere and deliberate on pace. This is not a “ripper,” as my mom would call a burn-through-the-pages read, but if you give it the time it commands, you will find a sumptuous story that explores what happens when one decides to drift away from society. Osborne is also keen to break rules–namely shifting points of view multiple times within a couple paragraphs–but somehow it works.
Plus, he wrote this:
“His eyes were spacious and pretty and you could enter their doors on light feet.”
I just love that.
What I’m Watching
Oh my god, what am I not watching? I can’t even calculate the amount of gigabytes streamed through the Wilson household (and my kids are on a whole ‘nother level.) A very brief rundown of the highlights:
Parasite – Wow, what a movie, awards deserved. And some fantastic shock values.
Better Call Saul, Season 5 – Probably the best thing I’m watching at the moment.
Survivor, Season 40 – A show for the kids and me. The fun part is deciding which contestants to hate.
All American – Probably one of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. But the kids love the over-the-top melodrama. I made it three episodes.
The Two Popes – More interesting than it sounds, and some of the finest acting you’ll see.
New Girl – For when you just can’t handle the news anymore.
West Wing – Because there’s always hope. Isn’t there?
Tiger King – The entertaining characters don’t overcome the bleak reality of the illegal large-cat industry. It’s a solid documentary but will leave you depressed.
The Dirt –
Me: (right after death) Why is so hot in here?
Satan: Because you’re in hell.
Me: Hell? But why? I was a good person. I paid my taxes and didn’t go out my way to kill spiders.
Satan: True. But you watched The Dirt with your 14-year-old son. Do you know how raunchy that movie is?
Me: (thinking, sweating) Wait…was that the biopic about Mötley Crüe?
Me: Fuck. I shoulda known. (turning head) Say, is that The Situation from MTV’s Jersey Shore?
Satan: (grinning) He’s your roomie.
Last Few Words I’ve Written
Apropos of nothing, I’m sharing a passage from my work-in-progress.
Quarantine? What quarantine?
It’s been a long time of just bunnies and squirrels, but a bobcat did a midnight walk-through the other night.
Ask Me Something Interesting
I love interesting questions, so I want to feature select reader questions in my newsletters. You can ask about my books, about writing, about whether Santa is real (spoiler: he is), the best Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for quarantine, which one of my kids I love the most, etc. Anything you want! The most interesting questions will be featured in next month’s newsletter, hopefully along with equally compelling answers.
Ask me HERE.