Q & A for “St. Peter in Chains”

Q. What do you hope readers will take away from “St. Peter in Chains?”

I like to think of reading as an experience; a good story causes the reader to experience it in a visceral way. In this case, I would like readers to feel what Peter feels, to be right there with him and walk away at the end the way one walks away from a good amusement park ride—a little shaken, maybe, but thinking it was fun, or even that they want to go again.

Q. What was the experience of writing it like? How is it similar or different vs. your other work?

I tend to write character studies, and “St. Peter in Chains” is very much in the vein. Writing it meant knowing Peter thoroughly, sort of living inside him. [laughing] Maybe I have a gay British spy hidden inside me! But seriously, “St. Peter” is different from previous works because it’s embedded in something closer to reality. A lot of my other work has an element of magical realism to it, or fantasy.

Q. Why the decision to make your protagonist gay?

It wasn’t a conscious decision. Maybe some writers plan out their characters, but mine are pretty much fully formed when I meet them. Writing becomes a getting-to-know-you process. Peter is gay for the same reason anyone is gay—because that’s the way he is.

Q. Do you consider it to fall within the spy/espionage genre, or is it something else?

Not in the traditional sense. It’s no thriller. It’s quieter than that. “St. Peter in Chains” is about the characters more than any big international threat. There’s no running around or car chases. It’s very psychological, by which I mean it’s about Peter’s psychology.

Q. What were your major influences in writing the book?

I’d say it’s a cross between Mad Men and a John le Carré novel. I don’t know if those were influences, exactly, but when I finished writing it and stood back and looked at it, that’s more or less what I had.

Q. What should your readers know about you?

Don’t be afraid to approach me. People think I’m aloof, but really I’m shy. I do love talking to people, but I’ll never be the one to say something first.

Q. What are you working on next?

I’m finishing a novel called The K-Pro. A sort of romantic comedy with a paranormal twist. I’ve given myself to the end of July to finish the draft, which is a little more than half done. I’ve also got some flash fiction pieces coming out in an anthology later this year. [Daily Flash 2013: 365 Days of Flash Fiction by Pill Hill Press]

It’s a Major Award!

Well, maybe not “major” but Christine Rains was nice enough to give me the Booker Award:

The rules for the award are that the blog it is awarded to must be at least 50% about books (or reading and writing). You’re then supposed to share your top five favorite books of all time (or more than five if you like), and offer the award to 5-10 other bookish bloggers.

Well, here are my favorite books (in no particular order):

  1. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
  2. Exit, Sherlock Holmes by Robert Lee Hall
  3. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  4. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  5. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  6. Rivers of London (aka Midnight Riot) by Ben Aaronovitch
  7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  8. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  9. The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin
  10. Any of the Hercule Poirot novels by Agatha Christie

As you see, I like a mix of things: historical fiction, mystery, fantasy . . .

I’ll have to think about who to give the award to and get back to you on that later; I’m running behind at the moment and need to get a move on my day.

Making My Case

This is why Hollywood should hire me: studies have shown that open systems are more successful overall than closed ones.

By which I mean production companies and studios that keep using the same pool of writers, directors and so forth over and over again will eventually run out of ideas and ways to be innovative. By keeping young talent out—and/or making it difficult for us to “break in” (why should we have to “break” anything?)—these systems are actually doing themselves a great disfavor.

Jonah Lehrer uses the example of pro athletes in his book Imagine. America produces a great number of good athletes. How? Not by narrowing the margins, but by throwing a wide net. Would-be athletes get many, many opportunities to play and perfect their games, their techniques. From the time they are young, they are encouraged to keep trying and repeatedly rewarded for their efforts. When they get scouted in high school and college, they still may be a bit rough, but potential is what counts. Being a pro athlete is like a very long apprenticeship. Scouts and teams are willing to take a few risks on players who may not be quite there yet, but with a little more work have the chance to be stellar.

Another example (also from Lehrer): medical and/or technical research and innovation. Labs and companies that are willing to take more risks have records of having more success. This makes sense; throw a wider net and you’re more likely to catch something worthwhile.

Meanwhile, Hollywood continues to be an insular enclave in which the same actors and directors make the same few movies again and again. Writers and producers borrow from themselves and each other, but it’s all the same stuff. (Steven Moffat ended both Doctor Who and Sherlock with faked deaths, which doesn’t show much fresh thinking on his part; granted, the Sherlock story line was a given due to the source material, but to do it on his other show, too? Really?)

Time to try something new.

So why not with someone like me, who has the education and a smattering of experience but could really use an apprenticeship of some kind to boost my abilities and talents? A mentor, if you will. I’m willing to keep learning, so long as someone will teach me. As far as risks go, I’m not even a long shot. Hollywood needs fresh blood and new ideas, and here I am—me and thousands of others like me—ready and willing, able to serve. If only the system would lay a little money on the table and take a few risks.

After all, the best and brightest know how to make good use of all their resources.

Quiet & Imagine

I recently read (and have mentioned here) Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. And now I’m reading Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine: How Creativity Works. I find them to be a good double billing for those interested in these kinds of subjects. Having studied psychology (and particularly fan psychology, but I find people and the ways they act and think fascinating in general), I am interested in these sorts of studies—and anyway, I sometimes need a break from the fiction I typically read (and write).

What’s especially thought provoking is how Cain and Lehrer use the same kinds of situations and examples to their own purposes, which are not at all opposed—the two authors are looking at two different aspects of personality, but these aspects happen to intersect in a way that causes the authors to cite similar material. And so, reading the books back to back as I have done, these things stand out. Cain uses Steve Wozniak and the Homebrew Computer Club to showcase Woz as an introvert; Lehrer uses the same to point out how cross-pollination of ideas aids in creativity.

Even something as simple as color can be looked at from both angles: extroverts are more drawn to red, which seems to echo and fuel their high levels of energy, while introverts like blue, which they find calming and soothing. Cain points out that extroverts look for stimulation; introverts often feel overstimulated and so search for pockets of quiet. Meanwhile, Lehrer shows how red backgrounds in studies cause people to focus more in a convergent thinking kind of way, while blue backgrounds aided divergent forms of thinking and free association.

It’s no surprise that extroverts and introverts are both creative and in different ways, which is what I take away from reading these two books and mentally compiling the data provided. Lehrer discusses the general idea that many artists turn toward focus-enhancing drugs (Benzedrine, Adderall). If we consider that many such personalities are likely to be introverts, and that they are perhaps given to head-in-the-clouds modes of thought, then when they’ve finally come up with that great idea for a story or poem or song, it makes a little bit of sense that they would then need something to help them zero in and do the job. Meanwhile, an extrovert might turn to a little marijuana to help him loosen up and free-associate more, allowing him to come up with new ideas.

Lehrer points out that creativity is something that can require the right mix of insiders and outsiders; that is, people with a lot of experience in a field and people with only a surface understanding of it. And Cain discusses the careful balance of extroverts to introverts in interactions and how offices should utilize both sets of skills and talents and personality types. Somewhere in this mix, then, is surely a solid equation for the perfect storm of talent, creativity and ability: the right number of extroverts tempered by the right number of introverts, the right number of experts balanced by the right number of newcomers, and the key method for using them all to their fullest potential (time alone to think and come up with ideas + cross-pollination of those ideas + teamwork/experts + newcomers = ???). It’s a tall order—more math than I’m willing to do—but find someone who can and will do it, and you’d have the formula for the perfect workplace.

As a writer, I spend a lot of my time alone, chasing ideas around my own head. And then when I find one, I have to sit down and focus long enough to get it written, edited, &c. All the mechanical bits of my trade. (I’m a writer who doesn’t use Benzedrine or Adderall, just lots of soda and chocolate.) I have to balance this with networking and attending functions, which I usually enjoy but have a difficult time getting excited about because of my painful shyness; a room full of writers is often a room full of people looking sullen and standing around the outskirts, at least until one of them has had enough to drink. Lucky for me I work a bit in theatre, so all the drama types will do the work. And, as pointed out by Cain, even introverts can have meaningful conversations once they open up, but there is a long warm-up period, and as a rule we’re terrible at small talk. In the end, I almost always end up having a good time once I find one or two people to talk to. I only want and need those one or two, though. Then I’m satisfied. More than that and I get tapped out pretty quick.

But as Lehrer explains, these networking events are very important, not only for making those connections, but for stimulating creativity via the cross-pollination method.

To summarize, these two books work together to make one very interesting read. They more or less dovetail into one another and give one a lot to think about.

As if I didn’t have enough to think about already.

The Self-Publishing Conundrum

I go back and forth when thinking about self-publishing.

That’s probably not the best way to open a post about the subject, but there you have it. A few years back I had written several short stories, only one of which managed to get picked up for publication. So I compiled them all and made a little book on Lulu.com to give to friends and family. It was even available on Amazon.com for a while. Nothing special, and I hadn’t done it with the idea to make a bunch of money or get my name out there. It was more that I felt like I needed to get those stories out of the way so I could do something else. I wanted them settled.

That book (The World Ends at Five) is no longer available. But I later had trouble when some markets showed interest in my stories, only to drop them when they considered them “previously published” just because I’d made a dozen books on Lulu. So in that light, I have to say I would probably only consider self-publishing again if I couldn’t get an agent or publisher interested first.

But then again . . .

Some works just don’t have a handy niche. A lot of my work is like that. People say, “What do you write?” and I’m like, “A little of everything.” A lot of my stories have a surreal bent. They’re not fantasy in the sword-and-sorcery sense, but they do involve magic or magical realism or alternate universes. It’s a pretty specific market with a limited number of outlets.

And then I’ve also written Sherlock Holmes stories. And a novella about a gay spy. And I’m working on a novel that appears to be a contemporary rom-com with a paranormal twist. (So . . . “paranormal romance” but not any of that over-the-top vampire/werewolf/ghost stuff.) And so some of this stuff ends up being not all that easy to place. And agents ask, “What do you write?” and I say, “A little of everything,” and they don’t know what to do with me. How do you market an author who skips around like that? So maybe self-publishing IS the way to go, not because it’s a last resort, but it’s more or less my only one.

Of course, then there’s the stigma. The whole idea that the only reason a person self-publishes is because they’re terrible writers “real” publishers won’t touch.

The problem with any stereotype is that it becomes a stereotype because it is (or at one time was) in some ways true. So yes, there are a lot of self-published authors who really could use some heavy editing. There are self-published authors who misspell and use terrible grammar and whose sentences hardly make sense for having been put together upside down and backwards. I know they exist because I’ve seen some of their books.

The idea, then, is that “real” publishers act as literary strainers: the good stuff gets through, the dirt and silt and impurities are kept out. But unfortunately, the mesh of the publishing houses is so fine, many good things also get kept out. And sometimes a little dirt gets through anyway. In other words, the system isn’t perfect.

And so there are some good self-published books out there. Even authors who have had success with traditional publishers are trying the self-pub route. And as it becomes easier for authors to do it themselves—therefore enabling authors to keep more of the money besides—there will continue to be an increase in solid self-published material.

The trick will be to find it. The good self-published books and e-books, that is. Now that every author markets themselves on Facebook and Twitter, it gets more and more difficult to weed one’s way through the blitz of status updates and Tweets. I’ll admit I’m still a little biased, still not terribly inclined to go check out a self-pubbed book or e-book unless I read a great review of it or a friend (better yet, more than one) recommends it. There are a lot of books out there, many I want to read, so to earn a spot on my stack, it needs to be pretty spectacular.

Wading through it all is like surfing the Web. There’s a lot of junk. Most of it can be ignored. And there’s more I don’t even know exists and I don’t really want to know, either. I have my select sites that I rely on. And every now and then someone says, “This site is cool,” and I check it out. And if it really is cool, it becomes a site I go back to regularly. The same rule applies to books and authors. I have authors I like, and subject matter I’m interested in, and writing styles I dig. I go back to those things. And if someone says, “Well, if you like so-and-so you’d probably like . . .” or “I read a new book about [interesting subject here],” then I might look into it. But some random person repeatedly shoving their book under my nose on Twitter probably isn’t going to sway me. In part because I’m pretty sure if/when I had/have a book to market, they wouldn’t bother with me, either. (That’s the problem with social marketing: everybody shouting and nobody listening. But that’s another topic.)

Let’s take fan fiction as an example. Years ago, fan writers had to submit their fics to fanzines devoted specifically to their chosen shows/genres. In that way, fanzine editors acted much as traditional publishers; they guarded the gates, made sure the best stories got through, or at least fixed the spelling errors. But then we came to the point where just about everyone had access to the Internet—hell, fanboys and -girls were some of the earliest adopters—and fan fiction began to pop up online. Everywhere. On collective sites like FanFiction.net, or on people’s personal sites, just . . . wherever. And it became impossible to find good fanfic any more because so much of it was just awful. (Sorry, folks, but seriously.) One had to shuffle through, or find a forum that had some recommendations, and those might or might not be any good based on whether you and whoever was making the recommendation had the same taste. (Kind of like whether you and a film critic agree; if you can find one you see eye-to-eye with, you’re in good shape following his or her recommendations on what to see—or not.)

So. Where does this leave self-publishing? Now that just about anyone can make an e-book, just like anyone can post a fanfic, it simply takes that much more work to find the good stuff. And makes it that much easier for an author and his/her work to get lost in the shuffle. I find that frustrating. Maybe because I’m not a marketing person, and so I know if I did self-publish something, it probably wouldn’t get me very far. But then again, even authors who get a traditional publisher might not get very far. It’s tough being a writer no matter which direction you go.

In the end, I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing. I’d like a few more traditionally published or produced pieces under my belt first, though. Credentials. Hey, if we’re now all in the self-marketing biz, I need to “establish my brand.” Or whatever.

Never mind. I’m going back to writing now.

First Loves Blogfest

First Movie

My parents have told me my first movie was Bambi. I don’t remember this. And I don’t like Bambi, so even if I did remember it as my first movie, it certainly wasn’t my first love.

The first movie I can remember really having an impact on me—a movie I loved and still love—is Raiders of the Lost Ark. This is, in fact, the first movie I can actually recall seeing in the cinema. I was all of five years old and, say what you will about my parents’ judgment or lack thereof, my childhood would be defined in large part by Steven Spielberg movies, Raiders being just the first in what would become a long list of loves. Raiders introduced me to “movie magic” and made me fall in love with movies as a whole, and in a way that would define not only my childhood but my path in life.

No pressure there, Mr. Spielberg.

First Song/Band

I grew up listening to my dad’s records. By the time I was three or four, I knew how to work the turntable on my own, and there were three albums I played often enough for my parents to want to hide them from me:

  • The Eagles, Greatest Hits
  • Paul McCartney and Wings, Band on the Run
  • Jimmy Buffett, Volcano

I don’t know which of these I’d count as my “first love” in the music category. I’ve always liked music in general. Now, if we’re talking about music I liked well enough to buy for myself? Using my very own allowance? Music I for which I would sacrifice the chance to purchase a brand new My Little Pony? Well, the first cassette tape I ever bought for myself was Invisible Touch by Genesis. That was the first time I liked a band different from what I’d grown up with, what my parents listened to. So that one probably wins the prize.

First Book

Ooooh. Geez. I grew up in a house full of books. My parents are readers, and I was reading for myself at age three. I remember really liking I Can Read With My Eyes Shut by Dr. Seuss . . . I was also known to sit down with my two-volume World Book dictionary and read that. So maybe there’s no accounting for taste.

But the first book I remember really loving, the one that had a huge impact on me, was The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I didn’t know at the time the book was controversial, and I’m guessing either my parents also didn’t know, or else they didn’t know I had a copy, because I’m sure my mother would not have let me read it otherwise. All Snyder’s work had a strong influence in my childhood because, reading her stories (The Changling is another that really stuck with me), I had for the first time in my life the feeling that maybe I wasn’t the only person in the world who felt the way I did, or thought the way I did. Sure, I read my share of Judy Blume, too, but I had a very different experience in terms of “the social,” and so while I understood and enjoyed Blume, her work did not resonate with me in the same way as Snyder’s. The Egypt Game (and The Changling) spoke to the kind of imagination I carried with me and the kinds of games my best friend and I made up and played. It was wonderful to know that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t so strange—or, rather, that my brand of strange was worthy of acknowledgement, and that I had just as much of a story to tell as the popular girl down the block.

First Person

Oh, sweethearts. At the risk of getting existential, do any of us really know whether we’ve truly been in love?

Fine, okay. The first person I might have had semi-romantic feelings for (or maybe just attraction)—and I’m thinking of people in my life, not actors or pop icon crushes—would be Joel. That is to say, he was the first boy I actively sat around (if one can “actively” sit around) and thought about for long stretches of time. I was 11 at the time. But I had also just moved to a new town and had nothing much better to do than read, watch television, and daydream. So Joel may only have been a way to kill the boredom. Thanks, Joel!*

*Joel and I did become a couple near the end of the school year, after he kissed my cheek while we were co-captains at Field Day. But after that year I switched schools and his family moved, so . . .

Parent-Child Personality Differences

I have reached the chapter in Quiet that discusses personality differences between parents and children. Well, and not just differences—in just as many cases both the parent and child might be introverted or extroverted, and this can cause conflict as well. But of course what I’m reminded of is the fact that my mother always thought there was something wrong with me.

My mother is very social. I’d guess she’s an extrovert. She talks to everyone, likes to be involved in a lot of stuff. She reads, too, and likes “down time,” but she mostly likes being busy.

I’m an only child. I liked to read a lot when I was a kid, and played by myself a fair amount. I had friends, sure, and I’d go out and spend time playing with them, too. But I didn’t like big social events, and I didn’t like sleepovers. I wasn’t especially outgoing, more an observer than an instigator, though happy enough to play with one or two really good friends. Just not big groups. I liked games involving my imagination, and I liked conversations that were deeper than “The New Kids on the Block are so hot!” I wrote stories and poems. I daydreamed a lot.

My mother always wanted me to be out with friends. She wanted to know why I didn’t talk on the phone more. She told one of her friends she was worried I didn’t know the difference between what was real and imaginary. She worried that I spent too much time alone. She would invite my friends over as a surprise—I recall one time coming home and finding about six girls from my school in my living room. I was mortified. Why were they in my house? What was I going to do with them all? I just wanted to go up to my room and hide.

My mother also used to lock me out of the house. She wanted me to get outside, go make friends. I sat propped against the garage door and read a book or wrote in my notebook. Not only was I an introvert, I was a stubborn introvert. (Still am, I suppose.)

You say, Okay, that’s your mom but what about your dad? My dad is a lot more like me. Quiet. Happy to stay home or just hang out with family. He’s a reader, too, and one of only two people with whom I can spend hours on the phone. We talk about movies and television and pets and politics, digging in to all of it. We’ve done that since I was six or seven, when we would sit outside on the deck at night and Dad would set up his telescope and we’d talk about books and music and the stars and planets. Very satisfying conversations. But we were also fine not talking, just listening to music or whatever.

I often wondered how my parents could manage, being so very different from one another. But they seem to have a sort of agreement. Mom is allowed to do however much stuff she feels she can handle, so long as she doesn’t drag Dad along. (This was a real problem when I was younger, my mother volunteering Dad and me for various projects and outings.) And if Dad starts to feel neglected, he lets Mom know, and she makes it a point to schedule some quality time with him. I guess it works out okay; they’ve been married upward of 37 years.

Anyway, what does this mean for me, growing up with one extrovert and one introvert, a constant sort of tug-of-war? Well, it means that about half the time I felt like there was something really wrong with me, and half the time I didn’t give a damn. Which is to say: I knew I was different from a lot of the other kids, the ones who hung out together all the time and went to each other’s houses and had parties and prowled the mall. And there were times when I was sad that I couldn’t be that way, wished I could be that way, which was in my mind “normal.” But there was never a moment when I considered even trying to be “normal” because I knew myself well enough to know I’d never be happy like that. And I had my dad as the role model for someone who could go through life without having to go out and do and be seen all the time. And be perfectly fine with it.

Maladjusted? Not at all. In fact, I’m adjusted just right—for me. I’m normal—for me. At any rate, I’ve concluded that normal is an arbitrary zero. And I’ve never been willing to apologize for being myself.

INFJ vs INTP

I’m reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and of course it’s made me question whether I’m actually an introvert or a shy extrovert or . . . So, it having been a number of years since I’d last taken a Myers-Briggs type personality test, I found a few free ones online and tried them out.

Most of my results were pretty consistent. I’m high Introvert, moderate iNtuitive, moderate Feeling, and low Judging (INFJ). This personality type is called “Counselor” by Keirsey, and I’d say the profile there is pretty accurate. I was a peer counselor in high school, for one thing. And I do have it in me to discern others’ feelings; I’m very sensitive to the overall mood of a person, or a room full of people.

However, a couple other versions of the test gave me INTP, or “Architect,” and that also seems on target. Still introverted, still intuitive, but thinking and perceptive. I am a logical person, and it’s true I have a strong dislike for people who blow a lot of nonsense at me. I see through it pretty quickly and immediately discount the person once I realize they’re trying to put something over. It’s why I’m able to work in the entertainment industry. I simply don’t have it in me to be star-struck.

In both cases, however, I was surprised to see that these types of people—both Counselors and Architects—are considered difficult to get to know. I often lament the fact that others don’t seem to know me well because, in my mind, they seemingly don’t find me worth the effort to get to know. I do try to be approachable. And people who have come to know me (there’s only a handful who could honestly claim to) have told me they were scared of me at first (!) but find me very warm once I open up. Hmm. This is probably because I’m never likely to approach people; I wait for them to come to me. The ones who are intrigued enough come ’round eventually. But I guess two shy people might never meet unless someone introduces them to one another.

Anyway, I ran both personality types by friends and family, and they said both were true. Those who’ve known me in a more personal way leaned toward INFJ, and those who know me in a business-like or educational setting said, “Oh, yes!” to INTP.

I’m not even half done with Quiet, but it’s given me a new way to look at the way I act and react in the world around me, and it’s given me some insight into my friends and family, too. The challenge in being ourselves is often that our internal needs and desires clash with external demands. Finding balance is the key.

M & Mr. King

Neil Gaiman has posted the raw draft of an interview he did of Stephen King, the polished version of which appeared in UK Sunday Times a few weeks ago (while I was in London, in fact, though I never picked up a copy, so I’m glad Neil posted this).

Which gives me, in turn, the perfect excuse to write about the time I encountered Mr. King in the Borders at Downtown Crossing in Boston, back when there was a Borders in Downtown Crossing, or anywhere for that matter. I think it was a game day (that’s the Red Sox for those not in the know), which would explain why “Uncle Stevie” was in town. I was just browsing; we lived on Beacon Hill and haunted Downtown Crossing when we had nothing better to do. The place was pretty empty. I spotted Mr. King in the stacks—he was taller than I expected, though then again, I really didn’t expect to see him in person, like, ever, much less in the Borders—and, after catching his eye, gave him the universal “Are you . . .?” questioning look. He gave me a little nod, which might’ve been resignation, and I left him alone. Maybe because he was really tall (though not as tall as my grandfather, but nearly), but I like to tell myself I did it because I’m not the kind of person who goes around bothering people in bookstores. Even if they are, themselves, famous authors.

Go read the interview in any case. I agree with King that I “find” my stories, and that often, as I’m writing them, they start to fit together in ways I never imagined at the outset. I’m excavating, discovering, as much as my readers do. Maybe that’s craft, but I don’t try to put any label on it. I take it like I would take a gift and thank whatever is in the cosmos handing it to me.

Also like King, I’m not happy if I don’t write. If I go a couple days without writing, not only do I suffer for it, but everyone around me does, too. I’m not pleasant to be around if I haven’t been allowed to release that pressure.

I’ll never be as prolific as King, and horror isn’t my genre, either . . . I like to read his books, though. I remember sneaking them off my father’s bookshelf, slipping a similar-sized book into the space. But my dad is no fool, and he keeps his shelves neat and alphabetized; he worked out pretty quickly that something wasn’t right. And then said to me: “Just don’t let your mother find out you’re reading that stuff.”

On a good day, I’ll get the six pages King writes about. Some days I’m struggling just for three. I try to make three my minimum, but the point is to write a little every day, no matter how little.

Lastly, I share King’s fondness for John D. McDonald. And that one is courtesy of my mother, who introduced me to Travis McGee after I’d exhausted the public library’s stash of Agatha Christie.

It’s childish, though, to compare, and ridiculous too. King is, well, King. And I’m just me. But I’ll keep writing anyway. If only to spare my family.