It’s odd to get back to writing, since I haven’t been doing any of the usual things here for a week. A long, lonely week. Gah. Family went off to Arizona, a sister-daughter-mother thing at a ranch, and I stayed back to save money.. A completely miserable week.

The only things that made it bearable were texts and FaceTimes with daughter. And an astonishing amount of busywork: I think I spent six hours in two settings on the blankety-blank matchbook site, cleaning everything up, making sure header links went to the right page, and sorting the 400+ matches not yet put up.

Walked the dog. The two of us shuffling around the blocks. One night he just decided to go in a different direction; something caught that old nose. He’s deaf and his eyes aren’t good, but it’s a pleasure to see him tilt his muzzle up into the wind, reading the breeze.

And I revised. This was, after all, the week where I tackled the novel I wrote a year ago - finished it in Arizona, actually - and see if I had something here. When I finished it I put it aside, took a month, and plunged into the next one, thinking they might be connectd somehow. I'm glad I didn't edit it and release it. But we'll get to that.

Looking over my photos in my phone, it appears I went to Uptown to take some photographs of my old apartment building, where I wrote "Falling Up the Stairs," and set a scene in “Autumn Solitaire.” This was last Sunday, I think - I knew I had to get out and do something to keep the blahs at bay, because I was already feeling low. Would have called the Giant Swede, but he was in Switzerland. FIGURES. SOME FRIEND.

Anyway, this is where I lived. One bedroom about four blocks from the lake. Three hundred bucks a month or so.



We shot some scenes from "My Mary" and "Confessionsl of a Readaholic" here, and gaffer's tape - used to run some electrical cords - was still on the windowsill years later.

Walked into the foyer for the first time in oh, 25 years. It hadn’t changed at all. All the same ancient details I loved so much when I moved in.




I saw the steps going up to my old apartment: nothing had changed. Except that I was locked out, of course, for good.


Across the hall lived a shifty gal; down the hall, a skinny exhibitionist we called Debbiecakes; most summers she spent all day in a bikini. Downstairs lived Sean Connery's bastard son, or so he said. But that's another story.


Then I went to Hunt and Gather, and I think you can tell my mood from the shots:





I did find something nifty: a 1961 Monkey Ward catalog, which will form the basis of another of those interminable websites. It’s pretty cool.


Played Bioshock 2, which is more or less the same game over again, with an added annoyance: you’re wearing a metal suit, but hopped-up maniacs can kill you with an iron bar. Yet it takes about three hot rivets to the head to put them down. But it looks as incredible as the first one - a haunted, ruined world from the late 40s and early 50s. I’d like to live there, but it didn’t seem to go well in the end.

Watched the Casablanca blu-ray over the course of a few nights, then turned right around and listened to Ebert’s commentary track. He nails it at the end, at least for me: when asked what the greatest American movie is, he’d say Citizen Kane, and asked what his favorite is, he’d say Casablanca. That’s exactly how I feel. I was impressed with the blu-ray version, but it didn’t seem that spectacular. Then I realized I’d watched the standard DVD version. Idiot. Started the first season of “Game of Thrones,” which I got with no particular enthusiasm; as I said in a tweet, it strikes me as “Mad Men” for the “Society for Creative Anachronism” types, but it’s gotten such stellar reviews I had to try it. Truly epic: I had to go back to a synop page to figure out just what I’d seen, exactly. So yes. I like it.

So. What of the novel? Sorry to go on about it, but some of you are interested in reading it, and I’ve thought of little else the last week. It’s as good as I thought. Whether that means it’s actually good, I don’t know; probably would get rejected by a publisher unless I was famous and successful with a track record. Why?

It’s a memoir masquerading as a mystery novel. Also, it’s a mystery novel masquerading as a memoir.

It doesn’t feature a brilliant serial killer. If you’re doing a mystery, you have to have bodies piling up at regular intervals, but in the case of a story about a 24-hour restaurant in a small community near the University of Minnesota, it’s hard to do that and maintain credibility, as well as maintain a comic tone.

It has a few big set pieces that have nothing to do with the mystery, until they do, sort of. The segment I finished polishing last night is a 6,000 word account of one night working the Valli bar - called the Grotto here, which was its original name years ago. (The Valli is called the Trattoria, so it’s the Trat and the Grot.)

Here’s something that made me know I was on the right track:

That’s the chart of character appearances. I’m writing it in a fancy program built for novel writing (Scriviner), but in the end I have to rely on the chart. Note the valley: that’s the incidences of new characters being added as the story deepens. Lets me know when I have to bring in old characters just to keep them in the game.

The first 5 chapters are fairly brief. Things really start to deepen - or slow, depending on your view - when we meet Tara, the reporter, then the housemates and Valli regulars, who go by Warren, the Uke, and the Swede. No one dies in those chapters! The shooting isn’t solved! Theories aren’t advanced! All of it would just be an aimless account of college, perhaps, but there’s the shooting in the restaurant that frames the reason for the story.

Does it bear any resemblance to “Falling Up the Stairs,” inasmuch as it has a sexy Daily newspaper reporter? Yes. So might as well face that one head on. It takes place six years before “Falling.” So it can’t be her. But it can be her older sister - and when I realized that’s who she was, it clattered through two other novels and ret-conned some stuff I’d left unexplained, and I had to go back and take the main character from the third novel and put him right in the middle of things in the first.

I do know this: I finished the revision. Ten minutes before my family's plane landed at 11:41, I finished it. Exaggerated a bit when I said it was a completely miserable week, to be honest: there were several nights when I working at the kitchen table, iPod plugged into the stereo, and everything was loud, and I was reading the novel as though I hadn't written it. Twice the iPod played the very same song referenced in the chapter I was reading: magic! But I'll tell you the best part. When I hit the big scene tonight, and the miscreant's identity is revealed, I was completely surprised. Hadn't seen it coming.

And I wrote it. As Sandburg said: no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Safe to say you'll be surprised. One month, I hope, to pub date. Amazon and ebook at popular prices. The series begins.
















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