Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

Although unusual for a summer holiday, today began with baking and cleaing the kitchen while listening to the kind of thing I imagine I would have heard in the grocery story growing up (James Blunt's 1973, Arthur's Theme) and thinking about how tangential the arc of my imaginary life has been to the arc of the life that I have lived.

The good thing about this is that there are places where these lives touch--I'm still writing, I am spending my life with someone I love, there is a yard and dogs to go in the yard--and places where they don't, spaces for reaching up to touch a line that sweeps around and disappears into the mists of other places and other efforts. For this space and this day I'm grateful.

Speaking of dogs in the are recent pics of furry silliness: Merlin and Varda in a jet-fueled race around the vegetable bed. Although it's high enough that they aren't running through it, they do use it as a kind of base for chasing each other. Gimlet stares from opposite ends are a good indication that you, the hose, and anything else in the way should move quickly. Although Merlin is a good bit faster, Varda is more patient in staking out tight corners. :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Impatience is a Vice

I'm not a night person. I'm more likely half-asleep around 9:30 pm, which allows me to get up whenever Merlin starts barking in the morning and let him and Varda out for a day of chowing down on socks and daisies. The challenge is that I'm also the most likely to be the recipient of "My alarm goes off in five minutes, okay?" This is usually accompanied by a groan and slow motion sort of crocodile death roll involving rewinding the offended sleeper in light-combating layers of sheets.

It's Saturday, so this is going to be a short post. Must cage the tomatoes and tie up the peas before chaos takes the garden.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wrong Word in the Right Ear

Sometimes its the punch that sneaks in under the laughter. I'm thinking of the past few months in terms of a bad 80's video--spinning in circles in tight white sheets scrawled with the same words over and over until the character finally loses the sheets and gets out of the concrete basement and finds the rest of the world (symbolized by wet neon reflections). Completely lame, right? And, of course, much harder to do in real life where it's less easy to see that you're stuck.

For that reason, I'm glad that I've been on a bit of a reading kick lately and that B&N actually had a copy of Scalzi's Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded last week. Hanging out on the bottom shelf with a white cover that jumped out from all the other florid sci-fi titles was a single copy that I snagged and have been reading in between a stack of how-to-write titles and various other task-based intrusions.

While it was funny and snarky and enjoyable from that perspective, it turns out that it was also riddled with the kind of advice and clarity of thought that shakes you out of the kind of repetitive mantras in which it's easy to get stuck when you're dealing with situations like losing your job and reaching a creative plateau. I've never been good at taking that step back or in taking advice from my nearest and dearest (or taking the time to appreciate them) and it wasn't what I was expecting to find in a book that I bought primarily for humor value.

Since I was already enjoying it, I was more open to all of it--even the difficult parts. It's not something about which I want to get maudlin, because that's not the way I felt after finishing it. Instead, I felt all shaken out and straightened up and set out by the door to get on with it. I'm pretty sure that it wasn't intended for that purpose, but it was apparently what I needed at the time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Fundamentally, I'm just lazy. I should just leave it at that, right? Last night I realized that one of the ideas that's been kicking around in my head for years might finally have found the right narrative voice to carry it forward. I should be grabbing notes, rewriting scenes, and otherwise just plowing forward through the new novel, right?

This morning, however, I'm more concerned about the tomatoes. Why are they still green? Why aren't any of them red yet? I'm okay with growing a zucchini bush specifically to feed the bugs (hope they're all struggling with insectile obesity), but I'm ready for a tomato. It's Memorial Day (almost)! There will be burgers that need tomatoes!

And my novel? It just reminds me that last night I got a bit too involved in offering comments on someone else's novel and I think I crossed a line. It's difficult to separate out the Reader from the Writer sometimes and the Reader...she's a bit of an opinionated witch. A witch who likes to lecture. I'm sorry to say that I got a wee bit heated, a little didactic, and then, when my comments didn't seem to be clear, a bit frustrated. Because there's nothing like someone else's frustration to inspire others, right? Now I'm sitting at my desk and wondering if I should take a break from commenting for a time.

It's hard to say whether I'm becoming hard on others because I've reached such an impasse myself and wish someone would take a pen and eviscerate what I've got so that I understand where I am or because I'm becoming impatient with certain types of drafts. Either way, there's no excuse for setting yourself up as a tinpot expert and letting your mouth run away with you. I'm sorry.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Breakfast Curry

Although it isn't vindaloo, my spouse did overheat the banana curry, so I'm considering this my Lister breakfast. Not a big fan of this curry, since the sweet seems to work against the seasoning rather than balancing it; however, I do like curry and this was in the fridge this morning. There were also a few slices of bacon. From this mismatched culinary craziness, I've crafted a breakfast that has left my tongue suffering from afterburn. It would be nice if I could transfer this into a story--taking disparate elements and genres and leave the reader with a similar lingering awareness of the world created.

After last night, though, it seems that writing is the last thing that I should be performing while under expectations. What do I expect? Right now, I'm running on inertia from the momentum of a now defunct writer's group. My metaphorical pen is lazily circling a pair of novels that are ceasing to give off heat and rapidly cooling. I expect that the pen become a dead satellite that sometimes catches the light of a distant project and winks down at the cold surface of the binary but cold novels.

So, yes, right now I'm feeling like I'm stuck in a rocket ship to nowhere with the memories of former shipmates for companionship. Curry for breakfast was entirely appropriate. ;)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Exactly As Is

If yesterday was a blast back to LJ and then an exhausting shopping expedition, then taken together my brain must have decided that I wanted to think about memory and corporate architecture even more clearly while I slept. Specifically, I wanted myself to think about tiles and store layout.

Thus, my brain gave me a dream about the Brazos Mall in which I was just aware enough of the dream state to try to dredge up memories of the layout and tile design from the 70's & 80's while my brain gave me goofier layouts than necessary for the "present day" mall. Apparently, "present day" involves lots of glass, open plan clothing stores, and dark-paneled fish & chips restaurants with surly counter people. The weird part was that I was desperate to recall the specific tile design on the floor; the size of the tiles, the shape of them, and the shades. And the dream made it difficult. Most of the stores that I remembered were closed, but I knew that I was dreaming and therefore theoretically capable of perfectly recalling the structures of those dead stores (except that the ones I was focusing on aren't dead--they're still in the mall to this day).

The tension between it's-there-in-my-head and I-can't-bring-it-out got progressively weirder until the dog woke me up this morning--craving Luby's and trying to remember if Wyatt's really did have floor tiles the color of Heinz 57. I guess when you're little you just spend more time so far below the level of the conversations around you that you're constantly in the perceptual equivalent of the kiddie pool. Or my dislike of carpet has just invaded my subconscious.

I'm still thinking about how much I miss when I write descriptions. It's not just the idea that every detail is missing, it's the idea that you find details upon which to hang your emotions. I spent lots of time as a kid trying to make sure that I only stepped on those dark brown tiles separating the wide sections of tan tiles that were little block, longer block (like a square footprint) facing the direction I was going. It felt like confirming the direction in which you were walking, as if the tiles were some kind of test of whether you understood where you were going. Stepping on a backwards pair was like a mental cramp. Wrong way.

If this was a story, dreaming about the tiles would be dreaming about recognizing a path contained in path with which I was already familiar. And this does faintly tie in the with a short story on which I'm working, so I'm going to pretend that all that driving and sleeping added up to a productive way to spend the day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Spent some time this afternoon at my brother's Pirate Regatta, which consisted of as many friends as he could get to build homemade boats (rafts, paddle devices, etc.), dress up in pirate gear, and float down Oyster Creek. Turns out that it's easier to build things that will float your children as opposed to yourself. When I left, my nephew was in the lead, floating calmly away on a raft equipped with zip-tied fun noodles.

Weekends like this remind me how much I miss in my freeway/feeder existence. I'm more likely to end up in the car obliviously obsessing over something ridiculous than down under an overpass, launching pallets stuffed with empty soda bottles into a creek with a bunch of friends. Not that I was ever very likely to do that, but you get the drift. Shaking myself loose from the keyboard lets me pursue a more muscular creativity, provided I remember to lose the car sometimes, too.

The scene that I've been working on in the novel takes place at the edge of a large river. There are eyes in the water and a small group moving along the shore, trying to decide what to do next. I've camped on the shore, but it was years ago. There is a sense of scale, of dissolution, and a constant noise that I think need to be in the scene. I need to know how the air moves on a beach. Research and play at the same time. Yea!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Crunchy Fried Gold

This was my first week back at work full-time. We're all slightly stressed and off-kilter, at the feet of which I'll lay this week's blog entry. To wit, what if we could aspire to become dragons of the outer mountains rather than captains of industry? What if salary were delivered in tribute? How would you take your gold?

I would take mine in french fries.

On days when I was feeling the pomp and the hunger of power, it would be Lone Star steak fries (from a bygone restaurant in LJ). Slice an entire potato into eight pieces, fry and serve. One claw could slice the parchment skin, revelaing the steaming softness of the white flesh. The taste of steak and oil and potato would be in my nostrils and throat long before I polished off the first slice.

On days when I wanted to celebrate firends I have know, it would be piles of golden shoestrings from a Fry Daddy, salted. A blob of ketchup would serve for the sauce, piquant and slightly sweet as the past itself.

Days that I needed take comfort from my wealth, it would be McDonald's fries, no longer as bountifully rich with grease and crystalline salt as before, but still a savor of both childhood and just being out on my own.

Other days? Perhaps doubloons of golden German potato fries or spicy strings of exotic sweet potato fries.

One of the things that I miss about that initial burst of learning a new job is that it cuts into your ability for reverie, which is one of the fuels of my writing. Hopefully, things will settle down soon and I'll be back to a normal schedule. May the week bring you a tribute of good gold memories. :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Can I Borrow That Obsession?

This week, apparently, I'm living with borrowed obessions. I live with a comic-book geek. Since I had put away superheroes (although not fairy tales) when I was still in elementary school, it's taken me years to appreciate the kind of episodic wildness that lurks in the text beside the art.

This late-dawning appreciation, however, hasn't stopped me from having opinions on storylines and characters. Recently, we were discussing the latest Superman movie and I was fulminating on missed opportunities. Mostly I was trying to explain that as I come to this stage in my life and start to lose patience for YA-skewing plots and casting that I feel sorry for characters that become plastic with overexposure. Superman seemed to have suffered this in his last outing. Instead of being humanized by being associated with other strong human characters, he came back from space an alien with a sitcom problem. His curly-headed inamorata was no longer a strong, independent woman, but a girl with a new boyfriend and an ex who couldn't understand boundaries. It was sad. It was juvenile.

It matters that it was both of these things (not least because I have to sit through these movies). It matters because other movies have come along that were able to say more with the same old tropes and characters. If you're going to have a mopey storyline, why not talk about the search for identity directly? Why not make a movie that takes on the idea of the Justice League as a kind of Ellis Island for aliens and the super-powered? Why not talk about what it might have looked like to have Clark Kent raised on the 70's instead of the 30's or 50's? And if you're going to do that, cast people who can stand up to complexity. Then again, perhaps the challenge is in seeing the character as a product rather than a concept. Are iconic characters both our wish to choose well and remain steadfast and the plastic toy that we throw against the things that frustrate us?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Everything Gleams Like Wonderland

By scent and by sight the arboretum is at that place to which it aspires when it dreams, shivers, or blows a clutch of roasted summer seedpods across the path the rest of the year.

There is a golden smoke of pollen blowing through the maze and hedges, a blue-brown haze of fennel drifting behind the tiny trefoil pansies and fiddleheads rising like caterpillars in stray open spots. I could smell honey and rosemary and whatever sweet japonicum is blooming now. These bees were so dazed, some of the crawled along the paths.

Dewberries and raspberries are just beginning to set and I'm dreaming of a thousand stories growing from the thinnest stalks just breaking the mould by the edge of the water.

I almost notice the squirrel in a waistcoat running off to seed more of them, but I am too drifting with the waterlilies in the shade and miss him.