Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vitamin R

Rejection, thou sting of utmost fiery prickliness, that landeth directly upon the bum of our ego and causeth us to jump from the chair and forswear further endeavor, because of thee, my ego shall not sit for a week.

Which pretty much sums it up. Although each depersonalized "not-what-we-need-at-this-time-thanks-for-submitting" makes me feel like the editor/reader/person-behind-the-curtain is damning the U.S. education for giving me a diploma and a degree, I'm trying to look at these instead as something that gooses me for another round of revisions and another five submissions.

So the drafts continue to grow and mutate and get sent out the door. They're mostly going to come back to me and I'll mostly never know why. I'll try to patch it up and send it back out the door. Sometimes I'll do so with humor, sometimes vengefully. I'll continue to take massive doses of Vitamin R.

Despite the bruises, my ego tends to respond to the idea of "This story chose you; you are the one to tell it, however well or poorly." Fight for your story, fight!

Monday, June 28, 2010


Why yes, I have been spending copious amounts of time reading the "Maggie Quinn: Girl vs. Evil" series. The best way back into a love of the fantastic is connecting with the kid who loved it in the first place, and Maggie's adventures certainly do that. In addition to short-circuiting the been-there-done-that circuit in my brain and connecting directly to the girls-gone-questing circuit (a crucial but little-used part of the entertainment-goes-here neural net), the stories don't mess around with the idea of good vs. evil.

We're all aware that part of the attraction of fantasy is the idea that there is a point to being brave--that there is a victory to be had over the forces of darkness and grimness and evil and wrong. It's something that it's sometimes cool to subvert in terms of making "monsters" into heroes and borrowing more plot devices from horror and the literature of the grotesque. Humor should come with an edge burnt black and the idea that laughing at the hopelessness is the ONLY candle in the dark.

Or maybe it's just me. One of the last things that my defunct writer's groups left me with was the idea that I wasn't willing to mess my characters up enough. There are rules for these things, about how to torture and mangle and exhaust your characters just to the point where all the reader feels is the pounding of the blows, like a thunderstorm on the windshield. Then, when the rain slows, you're so relieved that it feels like sunshine.

So the concept of opposing forces is something that can seem missing. It's as if chaos fielded an entire team and the other side only fielded one player and a stadium full of impotent but hopeful fans. Yeah, I recognize that feeling. It's the way that it feels to watch the news, to skim through certain times in history, to let laziness win on the days it sometimes does. But it's not--and this is crucial--not why I pick up a book. If the laziness won, I wouldn't be holding that book.

The laziness pretty much carried the weekend. It kept me in my seat and hurrying away from talking to authors and panellists at the convention this weekend. Apparently, the aftereffects are still there, because this was intended to be a lighter post. I found a new series that I absolutely love and I'm gratefully reading it as fast as I can. I'm really excited about it. But I've been playing on the wrong side and it's going to take a bit to recover.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Is It Today Yet?

I didn't want to go to the convention this weekend, but I didn't know why until we were already there and I was watching people mill around prior to the first panels of the morning. It turns out, being at Apollocon this year is all about what I've lost--there was the panel where the moderator talked ceaselessly about his dog that had passed on (almost lost it in that one) and no one seemed capable of addressing the actual topic; there was the panel about writing that focussed on "it's who you know--network;" and then my husband grousing that he'd rather be on a panel than listening to them.

Yep. Let's talk about Wynn and Baron being gone for a year now, me being out of work and cut off from humanity for a year, and my writing going nowhere during that "freebie" year. Although I had a good time in places (and acted like a dork in others, but we're not discussing my foolishness in the face of favorite authors), I never resolved the painful/pleasant into a coherent day.

Fortunately for me, I was able to go book shopping. I picked up several small press/self-published books that will be mentioned as I read them--by name, unless I throw them across the room. I talked to a few of the authors and found it interesting to see how people approached sending their texty litters out to good homes. Several books were written or marketed by couples, which seems both baffling (my spouse and I are on opposite ends of most reading/writing spectra) and cozy.

On the way home I pulled Rosemary Clement-Moore's Prom Dates from Hell from the bag-o-books. Score!! It was basically "giggle, snarf, can-i-please-please-read-you-this passage" until we got home. The story thus far is both funny and chilling. I was particularly creeped out by her description of the "extreme-weather drill" and the way she makes you feel the imbalance of the power relationships leaning into your awareness while the plot continues to fizz and spark. This book makes me regret I don't have a niece or daughter with whom to share it.

We'll see how tomorrow goes and whether I can sneak any more books into the reading satchel. After all, I'm going finish at least one of them tonight. Yea, reading!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

By This Strange Path

I'm well into The Professor and The Madman. It turned out to be a great find and a fascinating story. I'm amazed by the lives that the two protagonists led up to their collaboration on the OED and I find myself wondering if the internet is leading back around to the kind of part-time scholarship that characterized Professor's Murray's life. The sections on Dr. Minor's life are heartbreaking. The book is about creating systems from chaos and "fixing" the flexible language and both men's lives seem to reflect that as well.

Finding a narrative to fling myself into was a welcome change. I threw the book I was reading yesterday across the room. Twice. It wasn't that it was bad, which would have been just irritating. The narrative was manipulative and without grace, which meant that you could see the gears wheezing even as it twisted your emotions. Bleh. Double Bleh. In fact, I think it rates a Triple Bleh.

Perhaps fantasy narratives just don't mesh with my reading preferences anymore. I remember when I first realized that enough pop had bled into country and enough years had stapled themselves to my hide that I was actually enjoying CMT more than the radio. Welcome to middle age, sweetheart. Twang! Since I'm not sure whether it's just no longer part of the subset of literature that I enjoy or if it's just not a great book, I should leave it alone.

I guess I'm just worried that I'll be a grump at the convention this weekend if my interests have changed. Not that it will matter to anyone but my husband, who will have to deal with me; however, I'd prefer not to turn into a fidgetting irritant as soon as someone says "wizard" or "starship." Guess we'll just have to see. Bwa ha ha ha!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Emotion Leads to Shopping

The book I'm currently reading could be described as a pastiche and possibly as the kind of talking-down-to-the-kiddos YA that encourages blank looks and sarcastic thoughts. I feel a saccharine smile forming in my head, an animated smiley sun that narrates even the darker parts of the book, until the voice of the-narrator-that-could-have-been breaks through. At those points, I can focus on the story and not my reaction to the story. It seemed like a good idea when I found it, in a stack with its siblings on a rack tended by the writer. The writer assured me that not-just-kids would find the book fun to read.

Have you ever found yourself distracted by the book that the one you're reading could have been? I'm determined to finish this book because of that narrator-that-could-have-been. It could be that once the story gets going, that voice will stay for longer than a sentence or two. Meanwhile, I find myself once again at a B&N, eavesdropping and drafting a short story based on the picture of a wizard and too many nights of science-based TV. And continuing to read, as furtively as possible, the fluffy pastiche.

Which leads me to the sale table and a stack of books that I'm hoping will go unnoticed on the table at home until they're safely read and secreted on the bookshelves. What does despair of the fantastic lead to? One book on current scientific theories about the universe (too much math for me, but there are pictures), one book about the OED, and one book about a guy's love affair with his truck.

Books that are set firmly in this universe and that turn away from the siren call of the imaginary, the Celtic, and the wizardly. I was hoping to pick up some new books this weekend, but I think I'll just focus on taking notes and trying to avoid taking home any more cute but untrained strays.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Remember That Guy?

A name in a newspaper catches my mother's eye and she asks me if I remember those kids who used to live down the street from us, in that green house, the one that never sold and was rented for years. What was their last name?

Here's what I remember: It was a grey day, cold enough so that my first thought was to play inside. The doorbell rings and it's this little kid named Steven, whom I've never met before. He tells us his parents have sent him down the street to see if that girl who lives here would like to play. I get bundled out the door and, I suppose, we play. I don't remember what we did. I remember his face (freckles, dark brown hair) and that I wasn't used to kids coming to the door. I might not have been in school yet.

While my mom remembers, sort of, a family with a slew of kids who would run crazily around the neighborhood, I remember a single instance of one kid coming to the door. Oddly enough, I remember snatches of things from the house we lived in before we moved to that street where my parents still live. I had friends, we went to church, a duck barfed on our driveway, wasps invaded my green plastic playhouse.

Then we moved. Dad joked about how long it took that house to be built and how they better carpet over people if they couldn't work fast enough. I expected to find lumpy remnants of electricians when we moved in. My parents sent me to Port Arthur so that they could move without me irritating the bejesus out of them. That fall or that winter, or maybe the next fall or winter, Steven came knocking at the door and brought with him hints of school and the establishing memory of living in Lake Jackson and going out the door, down the driveway, and into the life of the neighborhood.

I remember that guy. His name was Steven.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday Afternoon

There is supposed to be a meeting tonight; however, the writer's group is taking a summer vacation so it'll be a quiet night in Frappucinoland. I can sit in a corner and transcribe the kind of wildlife that shuffles through the shelves. I can string the plastic words together along the rubber phrases, snap my observations against my wrist, and see how closely they match.

They probably won't and there will be plenty of give in their phrasing. I'm not a close observer in terms of structure. I'm distracted by color and motion. One of the things I admire in the novels that I read is the way that others can bring multiple characters together in story lines that seem to come from the characters' own proclivities. Even when a story like Divine Misfortune threatens to turn on a joke or meander through a scene, you can feel the way the characters are shaping each piece. The structure is there and lets the plot flash and spark without burning down or dragging.

Wish I could do that, you know?

Except that then I wouldn't get to enjoy it at the end. When I slip beneath the surface of a novel, I sometimes want to bring a piece of what I found back up with me. Writing is just remnant of something that I brought up from an old story, a trick of speaking learned in a sunken city. Reading is the glass that sometimes shows up the city itself.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Down the Road

The Wiz caught me this afternoon and pinned me in front of the TV. Dorothy's dress and the painted playground of the skating munchkins started talking to me about what I'd expected to be when I grew up, where I thought I'd go, and the odd double-image of adulthood that I've carried for so many years. In one eye, there is the image of the writer and the doer, in the other eye, there is the fog of family. For me, New York is an image and a talisman, a place that is an unreal as Oz but as potent. It is the talisman of the clear-sighted eye. In this view, the lands of adulthood have always been childless for me. One had companions and one had, either before or behind one, the City.

The talisman of the foggy eye would be the expectations that fell on me through my family that I gathered and made an umbrella of. The fear of unknown places, the desire to shirk because "nice girls didn't..." They didn't do anything except hit their meaningless marks. Clean the same furniture over and over and over. Make the grades and get the degree that "doesn't pay anything." This talisman is the voice in my head that says "stop" or "quit." This is the voice of the wizard.

As you can probably tell, The Wizard of Oz is one of those stories that swirls around in my head, popping up every so often in my own writing. I haven't read the books in years; however, I did read all of them as a young child and found the secret cities and giant poppies and slender crowns forming one innocent edge of the Surburbia of Wonder.

Since today has been one of those days when I've been fighting the wizard, it was nice to also get a chance to remember what I was aiming for in the first place.

Oh, and I did finish Divine Misfortune, so that will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

Good words and great days,

Friday, June 18, 2010


Next week is Apollocon, so I need to finish up Divine Misfortune. Mr. Martinez's books tend to be either ones I really enjoy or I can't finish at all, depending on whether the story carries me through his graphic eye for detail. My stomach tends to be really weak, but I'm trying to get tougher. DM hooked me from the start and although there are some dark patches, I think this is going to be one of those I enjoy. (Not that anything will ever touch Too Many Curses.) We'll see if I can finish it while waiting for the pool to fill up.

We've been told that we're slacking off on the dogs' activity level. Since neither one of us can be in the sun that much, we've set up a kiddie pool so that the dogs can run around more in the backyard while we huddle under the patio umbrella and think pale thoughts. Neither of them really like getting wet (why do OUR dogs always have an issue with this?), but I'm convinced that Varda's retriever heritage will one day come out.

On to the water!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

In Mind of Chilidogs

Today was all about spending time with the dogs (after they spent yesterday kenneled and glaring at the plumber) and getting ready for my remaining writer's group meeting. My reading was on hold until I found out a magazine that I read every so often was out.

In between articles about this and that and the physical pinions of the literary south, there was an article about cookbooks. A wire connected in my brain and I was back at camp, staring out the window of a tiny car with a chilidog in my lap. Even though we were under pretty strict instructions to not eat except for what was provided by the camp (which was generously prepared by church women who volunteered to come out and cook for a church full of high school kids), since you just never know what kind of things sensitive city stomachs might encounter, we weren't about to turn down a gift of a dish full of hot dogs buried under chili and cheese.

I was a snotty kid at that age. I didn't eat chili. You don't pass up the gift of food, though. Our adult counselor took the first one and ate it heartily, said thank you and set an example of kindness in a situation that could have been crazily fraught with "oh we couldn't" subtexted with "you don't think we're going eat THAT?"

Sometimes, to quote Real Genius, good writing is a like a laser that couples to a state that couples to a ground state and burns straight through to a piece of time, polishing it as it exposes the bones of the memory. A human story in which you can feel the presence of the human.

It's probably just because I've been spending so much time staring at the screen lately and relatively little face to face with others; however, the idea of making the novel into something like those chilidogs appeals to me. Perhaps you didn't want it, perhaps you were thinking about refusing it; in the end, though, the words were good and you survived the meal.

Good reading.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dog Days, Part 2

Got home from driving my partner to work this morning and found that the water line into the house had been sliced in two by the mowers. No water. Ding. Round two.

I picked up The Hounds of the Morrigan to keep me quiet while I waited for the plumber and sauntered a few pages further in. So far, despite the fact that this story seems to be aimed at younger readers, I'm enjoying the way the author plays with concern and relaxation. Perhaps because I was on edge myself, I was accutely aware of the way Pidge handles odd situations and fear in such a straightforward way. He doesn't second-guess, doesn't nitpick; he avoids what he's been warned against and continues on.

Pidge's firmness as a character is probably one of the things that will draw me further through the story. You feel as if you can trust him, as if he won't be lead astray because he will recognize the difference between a friend's warning and an enemy's blandishment.

Likewise, the cruelty of the villains are shown not in blood but in the casual way they lessen the quality of other's lives for their own enjoyment. The simplest example was the way a shop manager and a policeman were put at odds because of a spell that one witnessed and the other didn't. The narrator's regretful noting that they would never trust each other despite a mutual interest in rose cultivation that could have made them fast friends is telling. Without wasting words, the breach is made serious and sad and human.

I had thought that as a writer I needed to move into darker territory, because that is "what sells." Bloody extremity and sinew-popping exhaustion. However, one should not be betrayed into the idea that the only thing that catch the eye or the heart is a superhuman display. It is both hubris to dance heedlessly on the bleeding edge and folly to believe that fantasy by its nature doesn't grow from the brambles around a human-sized heart.

Something as simple as a cut PVC pipe no thicker than a thumb can bring you to your knees.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dog Days

Merlin the Peskie (papillion/American Eskimo mix) sliced open a claw today and left tiny bloody footprints all over the house before he decided it was painful enough to start yelping. We went to the vet and had his wound cleaned and wrapped (that didn't last long) and he's fine.

My brain, however, is refusing to exit Dogmergency Mode. It's been just a year since we lost Wynn & Baron and towels and dogs and vet visits are like Novocain to the thought processes. I'm cold and I can't sit still and reading isn't helping. Merlin spent the car ride wedged up under my chin staring out the window, too focused to whimper or acknowledge the pain in his paw. I'm still there, staring at the screen or the page and trying to listen for whatever is running full speed at me next.

Can't even think of more for this post.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Draft Blog Entry

Sometimes you want it easy, the print curling halfway above a dotted line, the floury clay a turquoise crust on your fingers, the vista open. What you get are pre-teen curses and a restless freaking awareness of the width of the body-wide table.

I knew the dark cafe was dying, the site of battles lost. The bright cafe is a surface impenetrable, too slick to slip beneath and watch, alligator-pitched, the way they flit back and forth.

A quarter of an hour spins a silver shadow on this page. Buy me a bit of time, put it down like a gambler on the table.

When she comes with coffee, the bill will be paid; when she comes the dregs, I will drink; when she comes with the boat, I will paper her eyes with poems.

Friday, June 11, 2010


In talking with a friend this morning, I realized that my ambition revolves around moving up from the ranks of minion. What kind of career path leads upward from minionhood?

If Evil Genius had been part of the game plan, I think I would have already gotten there. I've known people who were on that career path and I'm happy to say that so far I've gotten away with stories rather than actual scars from knowing them. The drama of the Evil Genius (and the genial defeatist nature of the enterprise) is appealing; however, the intellectual complexity is absent.

What about Simpering Weasel Behind the Throne? This dangerous but tempting career path means being able to pour all one's imagination and frustration into greed and false praise. A quick step backward and you fade from the scene, allowing your Evil Genius/Mad Ruler pawn to take the blow, catching any goodies that might fall your way in addition to the ones that the EG/MR has already gifted you with based on your "understanding" and "loyalty." This dual system, however, can easily either result in being dragged down with the overweening ambition of your EG/MR or forgetting the greed briefly to offer an opinion and thus losing your head or your goodies. Bleh.

Leading the minion revolt? Turncoat minion spy? Minion writing the sorrowful tale of the collapse of the ambitions of someone else?

That last one seems safe. Just so long as I remember not to put the red shirt aside for the escape from the volcanic planetary underground lair...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Workless, Thoughtless, Helpless, Careless

Today I'm too distracted to read. I'm still in that tangle of pulleys, ropes, draperies, and dust that I yanked down on my head when I decided to retreat back to the desktop and try to determine what I really wanted from being a writer. While giant ballads bellow from my speakers, I'm looking for something that might have gotten lost, something that all that hot air will reveal when the pretensions and self-pity have floated up from the floor.

Actually, what I want to do is come up with a plan for turning our Tuesday writer's group at B&N into a functional and effective comment group. I find that having a place where I can speak to others who care about words and books as much as I do is a great way to keep myself motivated at times when I can't seem to figure out why I'd add one more damn word to the surfeit of those available.

I like watching snippets become narratives become stories become novels. I like being around people who take the things that they have to say seriously. Approaching a bare story-telling competency and relearning things that I used to know are parts of that experience. The challenge is to decide where this should be fitted to action or allowed to fade with time.

Guess I'll rehitch myself to Black Deer and get back to being a draft horse. :)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Does She Ever Finish Anything?

In the emotional ferment that last night became, I picked up yet another book to read. This one is a Janis Joplin biography and I'm trying to not let it take over my reading shelf. This one is written by her sister and I can't imagine taking up a burden like that.

Janis Joplin fascinates me because she grew up in the same area as my parents. In her life, that area gets a measure of media that tells me a little bit about what it was like. My family tends to believe in locking things behind doors--there's an entire list of subjects that I can't comfortably discuss today because of the idea that polite people don't bring these things up in conversation. Needless to say, I love listen to Janis screaming from the speakers. I'm looking forward to reading the book.

Meanwhile, I'm picking back on the Black Deer novel that I've been writing off and on for the past several years. In order to clear out the headspace for working on it, I think I'm going to have to treat it like a NaNo novel in the sense that drafts can be awful and the important thing is to just get it out. There are ideas that keep spinning out in regards to the plot, but the words seem to be coming out in a stilted format.

I think it may be related to the idea that there are things that you don't discuss. It's a cliche to say that you have to go to uncomfortable places to write, that politeness doesn't always serve the story, etc. I fear that it would be easier than not to say something that would push me into angry-villager territory. Is this because I myself lack courage, though? Do I project that utter weeniness onto those I associate with? Just another uncomfortable thought, brought to you by reading.

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue my own personal 'profiles in courage' reading list.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Depth of Field

Short post today, in honor of my weather-induced headache.

At one point, I had wanted to become an anthropologist; however, that desire was put to rest years ago during an unpleasant college course. Still, I retained my addiction to museums and reading about the civilizations that come to rest in them. Last Christmas I received a copy of Stealing History by Roger Atwood and I've been reading through it slowly.

The story of looted tombs and the way these artifacts make their way from the ground to collections around the world is fascinating and sad. The stories of cities and people being shucked aside for a bit of prettiness or to create an illusion of heritage (stolen from the grave of a person whose remains are now scattered) is creepy.

And makes for such a good story in itself. Glittery objects that refuse to sleep quietly in the tombs of their owners, greed and worship combining to make different objects desirable even removed from any context or use. Reading about the way that people negotiate the relative importance or not of their past is also a good reminder from a world-building perspective.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Walk in the Woods

I'd seen the sign a few times before indicating a state park just off 59 north of Kingwood when I'd been driving home. After looking it up online, I planned a day around a visit. We picked a cloudy day and although I was nervous about rain (which has been the bete noir of my enjoyment of driving ever since a thunderstorm almost washed me off an elevated section of Beltway 8 years ago), it seemed like a good day for a shady walk in the woods.

Intending to rely on the signage provided by the state, I didn't print out a map. We almost missed the turn when the road seemed to dead-end instead of dog-legging, as it turned out. We found the road, found the turnoff (still following those impassive brown signs) and found ourselves winding down a little two-lane road through a neighborhood that looked like it was several decades old. Tiny houses set back from drainage ditches, stained bricks indicating just where the leaks and the water had run for years down their surface. It was hot and cloudy and there were few people outside.

We continued following the road, which eventually twisted past what looked like an empty plantation house, complete with servant's wing. You could see straight through the glass on the front door to that on the back. Around another curve was a giant Baptist compound, set back and gated from the neighborhood. We'd mistaken it for the park at first.

A black truck had come up behind us. It turned with us when we found the entrance to the park. This was a dirt road running under the tangled tree-cover. There were two entrances off this road that were marked as closed to traffic, but the truck turned down one of them.

We continued to the parking lot, which was empty. There was a visible notice that all visitors were required to sign in at the visitor's center. The light was green and gold, drowned in the manner of light that had already passed through the thunderclouds that were gathering at each horizon. One of us stuck a head out the window to see if it felt like rain. I stared at the empty rusted swing set and the leaf litter.

We didn't make it to the visitor's center. I'm ashamed to say that by this point I was completely freaked out. The images from the web showed a neat, full park and this was like the ghost of that park. I think even one other car might have convinced me to at least find the visitor's center. But an empty parking lot? Empty giant swings? Creepy.

So instead of a nice day in the park, I had an object lesson in mood and how slight quirks of setting and timing can switch the tone from Happy-Adventure major into Gee-Haven't-We-Seen-This-Movie minor. Hopefully we'll be able to get out to that park again in a better frame of mind.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Like the books by the bedside table, blogs and podcasts sometimes pile up so that it takes me time to work through the entries (and, preferably, a quiet grey morning like today). For this reason, I had not come to the entry in which The Cimmerian announced that it was coming to an end until this morning.

While I have come very late to this blog, each entry has renewed in me my commitment to taking the stories that I enjoy seriously. It has greatly increased the scope of my reading and given me a better understanding of the world form which that reading grew. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the best blogs that I've had the opportunity to enjoy. I'm thankful toward those who have given their time, writing skill, and editorial insight to me freely and passionately. I will definitely raise a glass at TRF this year in your honor.

Since one of the themes of this blog is that well-written stories are still something that should be celebrated, I'm sorry to see those blogs who serve as exemplars of the best of that go away.

In a rather roundabout way that brings me to another farewell, one that takes into account the way that things have changed over the past year or so. As I walk the line between taking my work seriously and relegating it to hobby status, I realize that one of the ways that I try to get the best of both worlds is by substituting submitting stuff to my writing groups for submitting that work for publication.

This isn't to say that I don't need the editing and critical insights of other writers prior to submitting, but it does mean that I need to work on making the revision/submission steps part of my plan for each piece. It also means that I need a group that makes that a priority. While I believe that I've found this group, it also means that I need to move away from those groups that don't support this. Unfortunately, this includes a long-time group that has foundered recently. The good thing is that it has mostly foundered on the shoals of other projects and it seems that most people are moving on to the success toward which we've each been working.

They are worth all the good thoughts I can send their way and another tributary glass at TRF. Something tells me that I'm going to have a slightly tipsy TRF this year. Good luck, ya'll. I think every one of you will find that novel or movie you're looking for. Thanks for showing [not telling ;)] that the work is worth it.

Good reading,

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Convention, Lack Thereof

Why can't Houston have a fantasy convention that competes with the sci-fi ones? We're headed to Apollocon at the end of the month and I'm looking forward to it; however, I'm a fantasist. I hunger for guest speakers and writers who focus on the mythical and the poetic. Heck, I'd be willing to cede space to the romantics, if it would result in a weekend wandering the woods and dark city corners catching legends out of the corner of the eye.

And I did mention something about books in the last post, didn't I? This summer hasn't been a great time for finishing books, but I have several good ones scattered about. Yesterday I finished Charles de Lint's The Dreaming Place. It was a quick read but good; an example of YA fiction that speaks to the impulse to grow up and connect to the people around us. I found myself in sympathy with one of the main character's resistance to a closer definition of family in a way that surprised me--the definition of family had become more important to me than the facts presented in the story and I was shaken by my own insistence on proper definitions and proper spaces in relationships. Odd to find myself waiting for a more salacious reveal than I received.

The other three books I've just started (in one case, restarted). These are The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea, Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman, and The Magicians by Lev Grossman. I had heard of The Magicians but had been slotting it in been-there, read-that territory until an encounter with a girl working at Waldenbooks. She'd recently read it and was recommending it with the kind of excitement that I remembered from when I'd read The Hobbit, et al, back in the day. How can you pass up that enthusiasm? So far (maybe 10 pages in?) I'm kicking myself for not giving Mr. Grossman a chance. As many times as I've bought a cover rather than a book, I should have scooped this one up earlier.

I already know that I'm in love with Moonwise the way I am with Gaiman, Tolkien, Woolf and the way that words can move seemingly independent of themselves, peeling back organza layers to show a landscape unexpected but familiar. It takes me longer to read it because I'm trying to savor each sentence. Apparently a second book has recently been released, so I'm going to have to keep moving and let the sentences lie so that I can find my way to the next volume.

The third is a bit of a mystery. I picked it up used and delayed starting it to finish The Dreaming Place. More than likely, this will be the first one that I read, since it's completely unknown.

After I'm done with these, I'm taking a second run at Little, Big. I don't know why I didn't finish it the first time, but I know that I bought it at the same time we were in that first apartment, trying to negotiate a transition that didn't come easily. I don't think I had much left over for the book. I tend to believe that you need to come to the text when you're ready and I'm hoping that this time I will be and I'll enjoy it as much as others have.

That should take us through the summer. In the background I'm working on my own two novels and hopefully pulling out submittable drafts by the time autumn returns. That tends to be my favorite season for writing and thinking, but it's also a generally busy time. If I have good drafts (meaning complete, not 'good' writing), then I should be able to work on them while reading and posting. Until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

General Squirrelliness

While sitting on the couch this afternoon, I read a poem that pissed me off. A sneer made text, the slime from which it had been formed still dripping from the last phrase; a rhythm that bent these inflated tires of suburban sincerity and tossed me onto the cracked sidewalk to watch those who were walking there, not to forget that everyone who passed cursed themselves and desired others and sneered at the same in their neighbor. Or perhaps merely sneered at themselves, watching their own actions endlessly for the beat of a new line.

Then, when I left that voice behind, I was grateful for those poets who "speak to other poets," for those who speak the language that I learned well enough to get by but never well enough to speak myself. So often I'm frustrated by the prevalence of romance titles in the genres that I read, of the demand that things be either a mirror for the mordant or a continuous prattle of meaningless liaisons. Why can't there be a language for me?

On a less whiny but no less irritating note, why is Google trying to translate everything on my screen into Spanish? Is this some helpful new bug that I accidentally tripped?

Hey, aren't we supposed to be talking about books on this blog?

Maybe tomorrow.