of piano accidents and accidental rogues

My editor overnighted me the copyedited manuscript of LORD OF BONES — I have about nine days to turn it around. Said editor gently but firmly conveyed that there’s no room for deadline extensions, due to the extensions on extensions on extensions she has given me, without necessarily intending to do so, since August. The publication date is July 1. In publishing time, that’s basically next week.

This is the novel as palimpsest…Revision layered over revision layered over revision, and inevitably traces from the first draft surface up through the final and have to be erased or incorporated…My copyeditor typed up about two pages worth of notes, the nit-picky line-by-line kind (as opposed to the heavy-duty, heavy-lifting big-story kind you get from your editor) and many of them involve things like: Ramsey uses a gun that is different from the two guns he was described as having a few paragraphs ago..Kai speaks to a character named Romany who came completely out of nowhere and apparently went straight back into nowhere, because she isn’t referred to again and so we have no idea who she is…etc. Odd irruptions of interior thoughts or bits of dialogue or physical description that don’t make sense. Those pesky details that needed to change once something else in the story became different, except you’re so close to the book — and lost in the book — you just completely overlooked them. Thank the gods for copyeditors, the more anal retentive the better (you can always overrule them with stet!).

I took the first 20 pages off to dinner with me — a small birthday dinner for one of E’s best friends at a steakhouse off Sunset — with this idea that I would arrive early and get some work in at the bar while I waited for the late-coming group to assemble itself. Except people were exceptionally punctual tonight, or early. Then, well, that damn champagne — got a ride down the street to the Chateau Marmont (where I once again sighted Matthew Perry, once again in that dark brooding coat) where the party continued, and then came home with E in E’s car (we often arrive at places from separate destinations, due to E’s obsessive work hours), and somehow we just didn’t manage to stop off at the restaurant in order to pick up mine. I will have to run down (not literally) tomorrow to collect the damn thing, and it wouldn’t concern me nearly so much if those pages had not been left in it. Not that anyone in their right mind would want to break in and steal freaking pages with red marks scrawled all over them, but what if a grand piano were to topple from the penthouse of the nearby hotel to smash my car, or perhaps a dead and bleeding body like in that scene from COLLATERAL? Yes, my mind conjures up these kinds of things, which does not say a great deal for it, I know, but there you are.

At the aforementioned dinner found myself next to Octavius and during conversation made a teasing reference to his rep as a “notorious womanizer.” He said, lifting his eyebrows, “Is that how you see me, as a womanizer…a notorious womanizer?” I stressed that I was only referring to his general reputation*. “I myself don’t see you as that,” I said, which is more or less mostly true, although in the end it might just be semantics. But there is no denying that Octavius at least so far seems much more grounded and romantic in his ideals than I expected, an accidental rogue rather than manipulative exploiter. I said, “I think you’re just…undecided.”

He laughed.

And it came to pass that a bet was made at the table among various male individuals also known for being “undecided”: the first to get married, assuming any of them ever get married (“You can’t just be engaged,” one of them felt the need to point out, “there actually does need to be some kind of wedding involved”) will receive one thousand dollars from the others. “Justine, we call on you to witness this agreement!”

I said that one thousand dollars was for pussies.

“Now ten thousand starts to make it interesting…” For me, at least, if not so much for them.

*After all, when a magazine lists you as one of the country’s “50 Most Toxic Bachelors”, alongside people like Phillip Roth, Colin Farrell and our longlost (still in prison) Notorious Neighbor…

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