Random notes about things I'm doing:

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First, a picture of my cat:

This is Emerson. She is affectionately known around the house as Murder Cat. She's only been with us since May, but she is beginning to rule the roost. She has learned that the most important job of a writer's cat is holding down the books and serving as supreme lap-warmer.

When she first came to live with us, her coat was very thin and she weighed in around 5.5 pounds. As you can see from the picture, she now sports a most luxurious coat and is a bit on the chunky side. She is solid black except for some ash colored wisps of fur at her cheeks. All in all she is quite dignified, except when she is using the furniture as a jungle gym.

In other news:

I've learned that I totally suck at NaNoWriMo, because keeping word counts is a chore.

I've also learned that no one pays attention to me on Twitter, except when I say something that I don't really think anyone will pay attention to, and then the tweet goes viral, and then I have to spend time monitoring the tweet.

I don't know anything anymore.

I'm watching Mindhunter on Netflix. I can't stop. I haven't seen a show this intelligent and engaging since Penny Dreadful. It's become like an addiction. I'll tell myself that I'll only watch one episode and then two hours later, I'm still into it.

Mindhunter is engaging, because I remember a lot of these killers. They dominated the news when I was a young adult, so it is absolutely fascinating to watch the FBI's serial crimes unit take shape and apply the techniques they learn. Let me also point out that I love how the cast is headed by two very sharp intellectual women. It's just a powerhouse of a show, and I highly recommend it.

I'm also writing words on a novel, working toward the climax, and I'm reading a book to blurb that I will tell you more about later.

Books that I have finished include:

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Southern Gods by John Hornor Jacobs.

Recent World War II veteran Bull Ingram is working as muscle when a Memphis DJ hires him to find Ramblin’ John Hastur. The mysterious blues man’s dark, driving music–broadcast at ever-shifting frequencies by a phantom radio station–is said to make living men insane and dead men rise.

Disturbed and enraged by the bootleg recording the DJ plays for him, Ingram follows Hastur’s trail into the strange, uncivilized backwoods of Arkansas, where he hears rumors the musician has sold his soul to the Devil.

But as Ingram closes in on Hastur and those who have crossed his path, he’ll learn there are forces much more malevolent than the Devil and reckonings more painful than Hell...

This is Jacobs' debut novel, a mix of Lovecraftian horror and Southern noir set in 1951. Jacobs' musical background is evident, especially in the first half of the novel where the focus is Ramblin' John Hastur and his mysterious music. He also manages to serve up some of the most believable zombies I've read in a long time. Whenever I thought the novel couldn't offer a surprise, Jacobs managed to bring a new twist to onto the page. Overall it was spooky and good and a very satisfying read.

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The North Water by Ian McGuire

Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle. Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop. He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board. The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action. And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

This is a gripping story that was difficult to put it down. At the same time, I can't rightly recall the last time I read a book so utterly full of horrible men, who probably deserved every evil thing that happened to them. Maybe it was the time when I read Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. Or possibly The Road.

Yes. Maybe then.

Anyway, the pacing in The North Water is relentless, and in spite of my growing revulsion of the characters, I couldn't put the story down. The novel does have a few moments of grace and the ending is something of a relief, but quite frankly, I needed a shower after I finished.

So if my grimdarky fans would like to whet your eyes on some dark wicked historical fiction, I highly recommend The North Water.

I'll be around some but not a lot. Remember: if you need me, email is the best contact method until further notice.