Thoughts while reading “Night School” by Lee Child. (REACHER!)

Good morning. Due to medical-type shenanigans that extended late into last night, I wasn’t able to prepare for today’s post. But I’m sitting here drinking coffee with Lee Child’s 2016 Jack Reacher novel next to my laptop, and it’s been on my mind to talk about it, so I thought, why not today!

(Side note: when I’m asked the classic question, “If you could have coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?” My answer is Lee Child. It would’ve been a tough call between Lee Child, Stephen King, and J.K. Rowling if the latter two weren’t already demystified by countless interviews, public appearances of various sorts, and Twitter. Child remains somewhat of a mystery.)

So here’s my copy of Night School, exactly where it is at the moment:

 

2016's Reacher: "Night School" (Lee Child)

2016’s Reacher: “Night School” (Lee Child)

 

Night School takes us back in time: Reacher is younger and still in the army. I knew this before picking up the book, so I was already intrigued when I started reading. Of Child’s 20-odd Reacher stories, Night School is the third (I believe) to take place during Reacher’s active-duty years.

Some things I learned, things that stood out, and thoughts I had as I read Night School:

1). It was fun going back in time again to read about Reacher operating within an organized military unit.

2). How does active-duty army Reacher differ from present-day Reacher? It turns out not at all. Veteran Reacher does the same thing that active-duty Reacher did. When Reacher ETS’d out (left the army), he continued doing the same work… as a freelancer.

3). “Freelancer” being a euphemism for “vigilante” in his line of work.

4). Reacher is a thug, but being one part math genius and somewhat progressive intellectual (who speaks French) and one part pure thug with superpower fighting capabilities, Reacher is a thinking person’s thug. This has been the case from the beginning of Reacher time. This may explain how Reacher always attracts the women he desires, even though he’s notably not good-looking. Apparently, a rough-around-the-edges contradictory enigma of a vigilante is difficult for these women to resist. (Almost all of Reacher’s women are intelligent, powerful, and in positions of authority; Reacher has great admiration and respect for them.)

5). Also from the beginning of Reacher time, Reacher has had his characteristic threshold beyond which he has to go rogue to some degree or another, striking out on his own. In the army, he had no qualms about disobeying orders to follow his instincts.

6). Reacher’s part in group dynamics: in Night School, we can observe lone-wolf Reacher and his behavior when working with the people brought together by the case at hand, and how Reacher balances working together and going rogue.

7). Reacher chooses Sergeant Frances Neagley (always his number-one pick of enlisted soldiers) to help him in Night School, so we can see that his respect for Neagley and her considerable sharp work and badassery goes way back. Of the three experts tasked to take on the case, Reacher is the only one to choose a woman.

8). We also understand more about Neagley and her quirks, now, and about Reacher’s friendship and liaison with her.

9). Jalalabad, Afghanistan is “a hot desert climate, like Arizona.” (Not news to me; I just enjoyed that simile.)

10). Lots of Muay Thai techniques feature in Night School’s fight scenes. Reacher throws elbow strikes as efficiently as a professional Muay Thai fighter (i.e. what goes up must come down… as in a downward elbow chop taking out one guy after his up elbow took out another guy. Two bad guys with the same elbow on its arc saves time). And side elbows. And Neagley’s use of knee strikes, among other techniques. This comes as a surprise to no one who knows Reacher and Neagley, but still fun to read.

As always, I started looking forward to the next Reacher novel the second I turned the last page!

That’s all I’ve got for today. Happy Tuesday!

The writing.

Yesterday, I had lunch with a dear friend who asked me how the writing was going. From the start of this endeavor, my answer to that question would’ve been different with each passing day. Responding to the question yesterday, though, I realized how much the answer has evolved. I’ve arrived at a point of understanding some immutable realities of big-project writing, which include knowing that the learning process will continue, and I’ll continue to grow and adapt.

I said to my friend that the writing is hard. It’s harder than any work I’ve done in my career of sitting behind desks in the professional capacities I’ve filled, and it’s led me to learn a lot about myself that I wasn’t expecting to learn.

Not to my surprise, I’m also learning a lot about the writing process in the framework of a serious commitment, though I am surprised by the extent of this education. For instance, I didn’t suspect that writing would demand more thinking work than actual writing work. For me, the most significant work happens when my fingers are nowhere near a keyboard. In the last six months, I’ve spent endless hours thinking and strategizing, researching and making decisions, trashing those decisions and making new ones.

One stereotypical image of a writer’s life is a frustrated writer sitting at a desk, perhaps with a case of writer’s block or blank page syndrome, as you will, and a wastepaper basket across the room. The writer types, rips the page from the typewriter, crumples it up, and throws it in the direction of the basket. At the end of the day, the basket is full to overflowing with trashed balls of paper, and the writer is still sitting at the typewriter, surrounded by more balls of paper scattered on the desk amongst empty coffee mugs and tufts of yanked-out hair.

We have computers now, so if I had a wastepaper basket on the other side of my writing room, it would be filled to overflowing with discarded decisions and ideas and word choices. I would be buried up to my throat in heaps of writing debris left in the wake of my learn-as-I-go process, strategies trashed along with my premature glee at having surmounted some impasse.

Writing (as a primary occupation) is not a nine-to-five. It’s a 24/7 job, and one has to be self-motivated. I’m working in my head when I’m in the shower and in the car. I’m working while I’m pacing around the house, and when I’m talking “to my cat.” I know it sounds funny, but some of my conversations with Nenette and Cita have resulted in big progress gains. Fur-babies are excellent soundboards; talking through problems with them has produced many a solution. For me, at least 40% of the writing work is thinking work. (Okay, in all honesty, I do talk to myself more now than ever.)

Some days, I write for four to six hours. Some days, I write for 10, 20, 30 minutes. And a day with no writing at all isn’t a day off. A day with no writing is a day of thinking work, and it’s exhausting. The whole project is exhausting. I have sparks of inspiration at midnight and sparks of inspiration before the sun rises. I’m up at 5:30am every day, if not earlier. My posts in this blog have been more likely to be late since quitting my nine-to-five, and I’m still not sleeping enough.

But I’m not complaining. I love this work. It’s my passion, my art, my livelihood, and by that, I mean the thing that makes me feel alive. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m grateful that I’m able to do it full-time. I’m grateful for the support and encouragement lent by family and friends, especially by Callaghan.

I suppose all writers live this way… obsessed with their projects day and night, agonizing over the smallest details. All artists, may I add.

Here’s what an honest pie chart representing my writing “day” looks like:

 

kristis-typical-writing-day-pie-chart

 

A few points about the chart!

  • The chart represents my main-project writing day. It doesn’t include blogging and other writing.
  • “Thinking” includes NOT thinking. I find it necessary to not think about the writing for a period of time so that I can return to it with a clear head.
  • “Procrastinating” doesn’t feel so much like procrastinating, since my mind is working on my project while I’m doing things around the house that need to get done, anyway.
  • None of this is to say that there are never times that I’m not working. I do my share of errands, appointments, lunches out, social media, etc.

I can stop thinking about my project when I’m at the gym. I can stop thinking about it when I’m engrossed in a book or in a movie or an episode of some television series or another. I can stop thinking about it when I’m with Callaghan. I can leave the project behind to be in those moments.

The short answer to the question How is the writing going? is “The writing is hard. But it’s going well.”

I finished “Make Me” by Lee Child. (This is not a review.)

Lee Child’s latest Reacher novel, Make Me, delivered. The story is tight and the tension is high, and Reacher is his usual, taciturn self. Reacher “said nothing” about 20 times. I kept track of all the “nothing” that he said. It was deafening.

If last year’s Reacher novel left me disappointed at all, Make Me more than made up for it. Reacher gets off a train and the story takes off, engaging instantly with intrigue (heightened by the knowledge that very little is extraneous – a perk of being a seasoned Reacher reader, though you absolutely don’t need to have read previous Reacher novels in order to enjoy this one), but I particularly loved this story with its details that correlate to details in my reality. It’s always fun when personally relatable aspects leap out at you from a novel.

There’s the female agent being Asian-American (which I am), and the tertiary character, a journalist, being a science editor with a background in molecular biology (I’d worked as a science editor in bioinformatics and molecular biology in the past), and the moniker ‘Callaghan’, “which at least was Irish.” (Hello, Callaghan! I’d written a blog post about how my French husband’s nickname is an Irish name.)

So here’s Reacher hanging out with this Asian-looking chick, and they find themselves, at one point, right here in Phoenix, where familiar places and things are mentioned. (Sky Harbor International Airport. Maricopa County sheriffs. Scottsdale. The “baking desert heat.”)

All of this coated the bad-assery with an icing of familiarity that added amusement to a reading experience that was already supremely enjoyable. But even without those details, there’s nothing like an excellent, well-developed, well-paced thriller/mystery to facilitate a much-needed escape.

If I ever find myself having coffee with Lee Child, I’m going to thank him for this one, especially.

 

Lee Child's 20th Reacher novel

Lee Child’s 20th Reacher novel

 

Make Me gives us classic Reacher, yet it deviates from the Reacher formula in a surprising way, at the very end. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

The problem with Reacher is a classic one, too… you can only hang out with him for the time it takes to finish the book. Then you have to wait a year for him to come back. I remind myself to be grateful that he comes back at all… surely Reacher will retire one day, and that will be the end. Meanwhile, the countdown is on for Reacher’s return.

The New Reacher is Nigh.

Today is September 4. This means that we’re T minus four days from the tentatively scheduled release of Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel, Make Me.

You regulars here know how I feel about Reacher.

Last summer, I so eagerly counted down the days until 2014’s new Reacher novel appeared in stores that its release seemed almost anti-climactic, though admittedly this may have been related to the fact that we were frantically preparing to move. We moved almost immediately after I picked up Personal. It was the end of August, and I had very little time for reading in the month of September, as unpacking consumed the entire month. (We’ve been in our house for a year now? What?!)

Non-stop domestic activity kept me from such tantalizing pursuits as pulpy reading, but even when I did find time to open the book, moving-fatigue dulled the experience. I remember reading two pages at a time before passing out late at night, and that was only once or twice a week, if that. I was tired, busy, distracted. I finished Personal with little enthusiasm, and I may have mentioned to Callaghan that the story seemed somewhat… reduced to its formula. I liked Personal, sure, but it just didn’t thrill me. Again, I’m not sure it wouldn’t have been different had life been routine and uneventful at the time.

This year, though? The cells in the part of my brain responsible for escapism have been salivating since I read the synopsis for the 20th Jack Reacher novel. Methinks that Make Me will be a super intense ride, and life circumstances right now are ripe for it!

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-LeeChildMakeMe

 

In honor of Reacher’s return, I present the reappearance of Callaghan’s drawing of Reacher (this is becoming an annual tradition):

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described in the novels.

 

So let’s raise our glasses, fellow Reacher fans, because may we all remember that blond, blue-eyed, NOT-handsome, NOT-glib, super tough, tall and inhumanly strong BADASS Reacher would toast us with a whole pot of coffee. We’d say, Tchin! with respect to his French mother… but Reacher would say nothing.

200th Post! Le Deux Centième!

Well. Today marks a milestone for this blog, because today, exactly one month short of two years since my first post, I’m writing here for the 200th time!

 

Capture200

 

*throws confetti*

Of course, I got to feeling reflective as this milestone approached.

This blog began, in part, because I missed LiveJournal, which I’d more or less abandoned several years earlier. Facebook eventually replaced the social aspect of it, in a sense, but I wanted to journal again. Moreover, I was living in France, in limbo, not working, and I could feel my brain cells disintegrating while my writing muscles atrophied. I did write some poems. I also intermittently worked on a big writing project, but fiction really isn’t my forte… I missed writing creative non-fiction. And when I tentatively returned to writing in LiveJournal, it just didn’t feel the same. For me, the old LJ magic had left the room (but that had happened before I’d quit, which was why I’d quit). Something had to be done!

I went to create a WordPress account, and I was promptly reminded that I already had one. I’d just never used it. How convenient! I named it “That Asian-Looking Chick,” bought the domain and jumped in with the goal of posting two or three times per week. It’s been hella fun, and rewarding, and instructive. I never missed a week, but it wasn’t until March of this year that I fell into a twice-weekly schedule that stuck. By April, it’d evolved into a Tuesday/Friday thing, and eight months later, I’m still comfortable with that.

Surprisingly, getting settled in a regular posting schedule coincided with going back to work. In the same month, Callaghan and I established a consistent routine at the gym. It was interesting how once I was anchored at a job, other things like blogging and working out sort of fell into place. It was like a “structure begets more structure” kind of thing.

I typically just glance at my blog stats and search engine terms, since the superficial layer is right there before my eyes, but in honor of my 200th post, I took a more in-depth look. Some fun facts include:

–Since Netflix released the second season of Orange is the New Black in June, hundreds of views have resulted from searches for the Asian girl who plays a character in those episodes, as I’ve already mentioned. Yes, the OITNB Asian girl madness continues to rage on today! It’s been five months now. (I still wonder whether Kimiko Glenn has any idea of the scope of her popularity.)

–WordPress stats include visitors’ countries. I did a country count and found that, as of yesterday, people have read this blog from exactly 100 different countries. I’m ashamed to admit that a couple of the places on the list are countries that I hadn’t even realized were actual countries. This blog has opened my eyes to the world, and that is fabulous. (Also, if I needed any proof that English is a language spoken, or at least read, world-wide? I’ve got it.)

–You’re mostly a silent crowd on my posts, except for when I wrote about the casting in the film Jack Reacher.

–A few of you have commented with helpful tips in response to my posts, and your sharing has been wonderfully beneficial. For instance, thanks to your awesomeness, we’re hooked on The Following (T.V. series), and I found my favorite Korean facial sheet masks – the Epielle ones I’ve raved about several times – at Big Lots! For an amazing price!

 

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

Epielle sheet masks at Big Lots!

 

–Because of the search terms, I also know that I’m far from the only one looking for that old (1970’s) Charleston Chew candy commercial, the one featuring King Louis. I trust that if anyone finds it, they’ll come back here and share it.

So, as I reflect back to the beginning, I wanted to thank you for reading and hanging out here with me over the last 200 posts/23 months, or however long you’ve been here. I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where all that time went!

Those of you who’ve been here the longest remember when I was an American ex-pat in France who had no clue that she’d move back to the States. You were here when I was an Arizona girl in Texas who had no clue that she’d move back to Arizona. You spent two birthdays with me, you share my “Little Things” (monthly favorites) joy with me, and you’re privy to my enthusiasm for pop culture and martial/fighting arts. You tolerate my kitty blather and pics (mostly Ronnie James, aka the Wrah-Wrah) and “NOT UNLIKE” comparisons. You read about Callaghan’s shenanigans, and you read my embarrassing stories. You follow my occasional cultural comparison observations. You hear me out when I feel the need to rant. You’ve been there during more personal moments, too, such as when my Mom set off on her journey to fight cancer (she’s doing really well, by the way)! And you laugh with me, which I love.

Some things I want to do here in the future? Well, I’d love to get more active as a blogger, reading more of other people’s blogs. I’d also like to mix it up more, spend more time writing about topics that matter to me profoundly. While my routine is fixed, time is actually a constraint (as it is, I’m usually up at around 5:00am to write here). I’d still like to find time to carve out for non-blog writing projects, as well – I currently have a prose piece in the works, and I’d love to pick up on the poeting – so we shall see what transpires over the next two years!

 

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

Monday lunch hour selfie (October 27, 2014)

 

And who knows… I may yet divulge the story of My Most Embarrassing Moment.

The First-World Problems of an English Major.

A fact of life: One never knows how many Stephen King books one owns until one moves. And yes, “Stephen King” is an adjective.

Decent progress has been made in the unpacking arena. I’ve now arrived at the books part of it, and… and nothing. I’ve just arrived. And I’ve taken the books out of the boxes – go me! But that’s where my victory dance ends, because now I have to decide how to sort all the books, and for some reason, I’m overwhelmed.

Well, I know why. It’s because this move is the last move for the foreseeable future; as far as I’m concerned, this abode is the forever abode, so my OCD-tendency-leaning self won’t let me get away with shoving books on the shelves every which way “because we’re going to move one day anyway” anymore.

I’ve carried books around with me all of my life. Over the years, I’ve sold, traded, donated and given away hundreds of books. I’ve lost some; I’ve “lent” some. But somehow, I still always move with at least ten good-size boxes of books.  My current collection includes some that I’d left in France (a pile of Shakespeare and some Russian lit, some of them duplicates, mysteriously enough) in my attempt to bring down the weight of our overseas shipping, and I have a small stack set aside for a garage sale we’re planning in the upcoming weeks. Still, I’m now confronted by piles like this:

 

Book piles in the living room.

Book piles in the living room.

 

And this:

 

Piles of books on the desk in the guest bedroom.

Piles of books on the desk in the guest bedroom.

 

And that’s not all of it. I also have a pile of books about Buddhism/eastern philosophy beneath the Butsudan, a pile of cookbooks tucked away in the kitchen, a pile of random books on the big bookcase in the dining area and a smattering of books in my office. And these are all just my books we’re talking about… Callaghan, too, has lots of books in his office.

This is what the inside of my mind looks like when I’m standing before these books:

Should I group them by century? Should I separate the American lit from the British lit? Should I separate them by century and group the Americans and Brits within the centuries? Should I group all the anthologies together, or should I put the poetry anthologies in the poetry section? Should I mix the pocket-size books with the trade paper and hardcover books? If I lump all the pocketbooks together, should I organize them by genre, or alphabetically by author, or both? Should I categorize the books by genre, only? Should I nest genres within nationalities within centuries (i.e. 19th-century British Romantics)? Should I mesh poetry and prose within those groupings, or should I keep poetry and prose separate? And which groups should I position where in the bookcase? Should I group the Russian lit alongside the British lit alongside the American lit, or would the Russian lit make more sense neighboring the philosophy section? Should I line the entire top of the bookshelves with poetry volumes, using them to bridge the two? Should I shelve the poets in alphabetical order? How should I organize the poetry… by era, or by style? If the era and style are inseparable (as with the confessionalists, the post-modern poets, the New York School, the avant-garde imagists, the Black Mountain poets, etc.), should I attempt to merge all the books similarly? What about my textbooks and essays about poetry and prose… should I put them with their authors, or in a category of their own? Should I put the surrealism section next to the magical realism section, or should I put the surrealists next to the poets? Should I put the biographies and autobiographies of poets and authors with the books those poets and authors have authored, or should I make a separate category for biographies and autobiographies? What about the smaller sections like classical Greek lit, medieval lit and non-Shakespearean drama? Should I separate Shakespeare’s poetry from his dramas, or keep them all together in the Elizabethan section? (Would it be weirder to have a poetry section without Shakespeare’s poems, or to have a Shakespeare section without his poems?) What about the contemporary literature? The non-fiction? Should I separate the political non-fiction from the general non-fiction? What about creative non-fiction? What about my western religious texts? The feminist texts? Should I group my books in French together, separate from the books in English, or should I merge them?

Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

I’ve been staring at these piles of books for a few days now.

I’ve already decided to put reference books and instructional books, including all of my French grammar books and dictionaries, in the big bookshelf in the dining area.

I’m hoping that somehow, my collections of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Lee Child, J.K. Rowling, Anne Rice and the like, along with random other books, will all fit in the tall, narrow bookcase in the guest bedroom. I like the idea of stocking that room with brain candy for visitors who are on vacation (Callaghan’s going to add some books in French for our visitors from France).

None of these considerations came into play in the apartment we’d just vacated. I knew it was temporary, so I created double rows of books in some parts and didn’t care that the ones in the back rows weren’t visible. In this house, though, I want to be able to see every single book, and I want to be able to find books easily. In the past, I’d typically arranged books alphabetically, by author. I’m craving that level of organization in my life again because I’m craving rootedness. I feel like if my books are in order, then my life will be in order. When I was a kid in grade school, some of my friends used to tease me about my reading, saying, Kristi’s going to turn into a book! Maybe that’s finally happened.

On that note, I’m off to spend the day away from the office, going to appointments, seeing people, running errands, and so on. Happy Friday, All!

Jack Reacher Day Approaches!

It’s nearly May. Summer’s coming fast, and I’m so excited because August 28 is coming fast, too, and August 28 is JACK REACHER DAY 2014.

By that, I mean, it’s the day on which Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel will be released!

Needless to say, I’m grateful to belong to a fandom that’s spoiled rotten by a prolific author who works hard to ensure that we “Reacher-Creatures” get our Reacher fix on an annual basis. (I’m not sure how I feel about that nickname for us, but I don’t mind it.) I’m truly grateful to Lee Child for his solid work ethic.

I wait almost a year for a book I’ll read in a few days, after which I spend the next 360 days or so anticipating the next one. I don’t take Lee Child for granted, though. He’s not a book-producing machine. He’s human, and life happens. He could decide to go on hiatus for a year or two, and one day he’ll retire and kill off Reacher or otherwise vanish him somehow. The end of Reacher is inevitable.

I already know how I’m going to handle Reacher’s demise or ultimate disappearance into the ether: I’m going to celebrate him by reading the whole entire series of novels all over again, and in chronological order this time.

To paraphrase Doc Holliday in Tombstone, “My obsession knows no bounds.”

 

Callaghan's drawing of Jack Reacher, as described by author Lee Child.

Callaghan’s drawing of Jack Reacher, as described by author Lee Child.

 

Jack Reacher intrigues with his complexity; over the arc of his 17 Reacher novels, Lee Child created a fictional portrait tight with detail resulting in a dimensional and well-developed action character who embroils himself in situations ranging from tricky to cataclysmic everywhere he goes. Reacher’s physical characteristics are explicitly defined and described consistently throughout the series – which is important to the stories, as Reacher needs that specific physique in order to do the things he does – and Reacher has a complete background with life details and personality traits from childhood on up.

 

Jack Reacher's "CV" appears at the front of many of the Reacher books I own, and it came in handy. While reading, I often had to refer back to Reacher's physical stats as cited on this page in order to gauge whether some of his more outrageous "activities" could be humanly possible.

Jack Reacher’s “CV” appears at the front of many of the Reacher books I own, and it came in handy. While reading, I often had to refer back to Reacher’s physical stats as cited on this page in order to gauge whether some of his more outrageous “activities” could be humanly possible.

 

Did you know, for instance, that Reacher speaks fluent French, because his mother was French? And that she lived in Paris, where he went to visit her on a few documented occasions? True story, as far as fictional stories go. Reacher is half-French, and he enjoyed dining with his maman and brother at the Restaurant Polidor, a Parisian eatery that was established in 1845 and still, to this day, won’t accept credit cards.

Actually, I discovered Reacher while living in France. I spent much of the summer of 2012 wandering alone through le Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and the surrounding streets, and one day, it occurred to me that La Fnac, a French counterpart of the States’ Barnes and Noble, might carry some books in English. I wanted to read. Moreover, I wanted the instant gratification of plunging headfirst into fiction and losing myself in its depths. Struggling through French text with a dictionary in one hand and a fistful of my own hair (clenched tightly by the roots) in the other would be educational, but it wouldn’t suit my purposes. Or my hair. I wanted escapism.

I was happy to find an abundance of Alice Munro, T.C. Boyle and Joyce Carol Oates, all of whom I adore – Munro’s short stories, especially – and then I wanted some fun pulp fiction to round out my selection. Action, thriller and horror (as well as any hybrids of the three… and if we’re talking fiction genre hybrids, you can throw some science fiction in there, too) are my favorite pulpy genres, and I had no idea where to begin looking. I’d already read all of the available Stephen King, who works masterfully at the intersection of literature and pulp fiction (like no one else does, in my opinion), and I wasn’t familiar with any of the other authors on the shelves. So I started picking up novels at random and reading the blurbs on the back, choosing, in the end, The Affair by Lee Child.

That’s where I met Reacher.

It turned out that The Affair was a good place to start, because it’s one of just a few Reacher novels written in the first person. The majority of the novels are written in the third person. I felt like I got to know Reacher through the lens of his own perspective.

It took a few pages to get acclimated to Child’s writing style, but he had me hooked in no time. I finished the book in three days and headed back downtown. I knew La Fnac had another Lee Child novel on the shelf, because I’d deliberated between the two before selecting The Affair. I went back for Gone Tomorrow, and then I embarked on a Reacher search expedition wherever I could find books in English throughout the French Riviera, including Virgin Records (also in the Le Vieux Nice area, on la Rue Jean Medecin), and Les Galleries Lafayette (a French equivalent of Macy’s) located in Cap 3000, a mall at the end of the Promenade des Anglais between Nice and Antibes. I also scoured the Nice Etoile, a much smaller mall located down the street from Virgin Records on la Rue Jean Medecin.

Somewhere in there, Callaghan picked up one of my books (Gone Tomorrow) and got hooked on Reacher, too. We needed to find more!

Back in our little wilderness corner of the world in le Vercors – we divided our time between Rhône-Alpes and la Côte d’Azur – we searched for Reacher in La Fnac in Valence, as well as in Cultura (similar to the States’ erstwhile Borders).

Out of all of those places, we were only able to find one more Reacher novel, at Virgin Records in Nice, I believe. Bad Luck and Trouble.   

But – surprise! – we found many more at the Frankfurt airport in September, when we stopped over in Germany on our way to Los Angeles. Of course! Reacher novels aren’t just great pulp fiction – they’re great airport pulp fiction. With plenty of time to enjoy some good German beer and browse every newsstand we could find, we ended up boarding the plane with something like seven or eight Reacher novels. When we got to Los Angeles, we went to Barnes and Noble with The List and picked up the remaining six or seven. We headed back to France with 14 Reacher novels in our suitcase, then in possession of all 17.

The following summer – last year – we were in Austin, Texas when Child’s 18th Reacher book hit the shelves. I was thrilled to be right there!

That brings us to Child’s 2014 release. August 28. I’m waiting patiently, only glancing at the calendar every other day or so.

I’ve been asked which Reacher novel is my favorite, and that’s difficult to answer. I’d say it’s a tie between Gone Tomorrow and Bad Luck and Trouble. Persuasion would probably come in third.I also really enjoyed the three most recent titles, those that chronicle Reacher’s adventures post South Dakota debacle: Worth Dying For, A Wanted Man and Never Go Back (last year’s). It’s difficult to say, though. They’re all fantastically entertaining!

I can’t wait to see what Reacher gets himself into in this year’s installment of the ongoing adventure….

“Go then, there are other worlds than these.”

…said Jake Chambers in The Dark Tower epic series by Stephen King. Better words to capture the essence of escapism have never been spoken.

Whoa! This last week’s been about packing, cleaning, taking stuff to the dump, hanging out with a friend who came to stay for a couple of days, and working around technical difficulties – up until this minute, in fact – with both our internet connection and my computer AC adaptor malfunction.

I’m flipping through my agenda, the book in which I keep track of exciting things coming up. I like looking forward to stuff. I have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with secondary clinical depression, so looking forward to stuff is like the key to my well-being.

Mainly, right now, I’m looking forward to moving, and that’s a big thing. It’s exciting, but it’s big. It’s so big that it’s not on my list of things that I’m looking forward to, even though I am. It’s the small things that make a difference, because they don’t carry the caveat of stress that the big things do. The small things are just there to be anticipated. They are fluff, and fluff cannot be underrated.

Here, I’ll share this with you… Fluffy Things I’m looking forward to, in no particular order:

1. The return of Arrested Development (T.V. series) in May. The Bluth family. Because the chicken dance matters.

2. The next episode of The Following (T.V. series). Thank you again for this recommendation, Arne F.!

3. Stephen King’s The Wind through the Keyhole. Because Roland “The Gunslinger” Deschain, aka Roland of Gilead in the aforementioned Dark Tower epic series, is my fictional boyfriend.

I’m not an aficionado of the fantasy genre, but I’m obsessed with The Dark Tower, which is a brilliantly crafted literary collage of fantasy-horror-western-drama. When I finished all seven books in the series, I sought out the short stories that featured Roland. After that, I had to accept the fact that I’d read everything with Roland in existence. Life went on. Then, last week, we were browsing through the books in the English section at Cultura, and guess what! I discovered The Wind through the Keyhole. How did I not know about this publication? It came out last year. It’s a new installment in the Dark Tower series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel, too. I’m forcing myself to wait until I’m on the airplane to crack it open.

Yep. Settling down on the plane over the Atlantic with this new Dark Tower book on my tray is going to be my reward to myself for surviving the stress of moving.

4. Lee Child’s new Jack Reacher novel Never Go Back (August). Because… Reacher!!

5. American Horror Story, Season 3 (October). This new season is called “Coven,” and a lot of it will be filmed in New Orleans. I’m sure it’s going to be as richly atmospheric as the first two seasons. Can’t. Wait.

(If we’ve been friends forever and you’re confused because you never knew me to watch T.V., let me explain what happened: Netflix streaming. And we started to watch Bob’s Burgers. That was the beginning of it. Or the end of it, depending on how you look at it.)

I also used to think that I’d never be interested in reality T.V., but then? Cake Boss.

For those of you who don’t know, the Cake Boss is this guy called Buddy who owns Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, New Jersey. The show follows Buddy and his family and crew as they create these freaktastically detailed specialty cakes custom-ordered by people for various occasions and events. The Cake Boss takes on some spectacular challenges; he seems to be the type of person who works well under pressure, thriving in merging funnels of drama and disaster, always managing to deliver his splendiferous works of sugary art in style. “NOW WHO WANTS TO EAT SOME CAKE?!”

Callaghan and I have an ongoing banter about what cakes we’d order from the Cake Boss. Callaghan knows that I’d love to have one for Valentine’s Day. Every once in a while, I’ll suddenly ask him… wait, okay, let me do it right now…

“What cake are you going to order for me?” I’m calling it out, since he’s in the other room.

“It’s a surprise… you’re not going to know. Heheheh! Coquine! You thought I was going to tell you, hein?”

See? He answered immediately, like he was waiting for me to ask! He has no idea that I’m writing this, and that I just keyed in what he said, word for word.

Shoot. I mean, okay, I’m not desperate to know. I’m not going to secretly administer a truth serum so he’ll tell me. I’ll enjoy being surprised.

It’s just fun to think about what he might order. It’s fun to think about getting, say, a Jack Reacher cake from the Cake Boss. Or a beautiful Dark Tower cake, featuring red roses and lobstrosities.