Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Untrodden Territory

Although it's 90 degrees outside, Halloween is this weekend and I've been looking for something spooky to read. Yesterday, I happened upon an inexpensive paperback of Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness and a few shorter stories. After a hurried phone call to my favorite Pumpkin King (Is Lovecraft gory? Scary? Will I ever sleep again?), I picked it up along with a new Esther Friesner collection (Fangs for the Mammaries--suburban vamps of indeterminate sparkle-itude) to take the edge off should it prove too frightening.

Sadly, it's more familiar than frightening. Standing on bleak plains and looking out into darkness matches up with my experience of being out of work for going on two years and feeling the thunder of countless hours of bad news shuddering from the screen in front of me. So...yeah. More depressing than scary.

Perhaps this is something that I should have read earlier. Despite the utter restlessness with which I find myself approaching the text, the slow pace eventually calms me and then something chilly sighs beneath the words. Despite the raw places these stories poke, I'm entranced by their mystery.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

NaNo Countdown

So...what's up with you? I've been speeding through partial books lately, not really finishing anything and distracting myself with reunion depression, Ren Fest merriment, and Halloween decorations. Most recently, I've been gearing up for NaNoWriMo, during which I plan to draft my first YA novel.

Since I'm going to be doing NaNo, my other novel draft is going to be on hold. I'm drafting three chapters this week and then putting it aside to answer the profound fantasy question "How did the gold get in the rat?" You may have encountered this phenomenon yourself. Giant rats roaming the countryside of Questland, just strong enough to give your adventurer a bit of treasure and a bit of experience before he or she roams away from the village and into the wilds. How did all that coinage get in those rats and is it the reason they're so large, slow, and mean?

If that doesn't sound like a YA story that's because it didn't start out to be one. However, the character who seems to be the voice of the novel was younger than I at first imagined. While I'm a fan of adult fantasy (meaning that not written about teens, typically), this seemed like a good time to take a break and try out a different voice. I'm surrounded by excellent YA writers and have had the good fortune to meet others at our local convention and, while I'm not on their level, they are inspiring as writers and they seem to have fun with their characters.

The great thing about NaNo is that it gives me a chance to not take myself that seriously--this is basically a writing footrace and you're encouraged to have a good time while banging out 50,000 words during the month of November.

Since I've been lackadaisical this month, my Halloween post will be all about RenFest--with pictures! Meanwhile, back to the serious draft.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

An Old Time in the Hot City

This morning we ended up in Old Town Spring, which is a created remainder of an old rail-road town just north of Houston. It's full of antiques and food and quirk, just as you might imagine. We were looking for chocolate, but we've been blessed with a cool front this weekend and we both realized as we got out of the car that it would be nicer to poke around than to go directly for the chocolate.

His first priority was coffee and we ended up in one of the larger buildings not far from the beginning of the shops. The floor was wood, the windows lit narrow shelves of ceramics pressed into tight aisles. Everything smelled of coffee and the breeze pressed us further in. As I wedged myself carefully into the aisles, my mind leapt back to Brownwood and my Aunt Lois' house. Scent memory and place memory swept the table clean and threw laced images over the solid present. The wooden floor shifted and I was balanced in the past and present for a few seconds.

Since then I've been thinking of the surfaces below my feet. Wondering whether the concrete underlying the carpet is porous to the place or whether it's too hard to take impressions. I have since I was young wanted to live in a museum, in a place that is caked in poured concrete and glass and I wonder if I wanted to leave no impression on my surroundings, to live somewhere that I would leave with as little impression as a tourist leaves a museum. That can be accomplished without living in a concrete house--there is no impression that can be left on time itself that I know of.

Part of the dearth of book-related posts lately is that I've been reading about how to read and fussing with writing and with finding the purpose to gear up for submissions and continue lengthier drafts. There is something deadly sometimes about reading about why someone else reads and what he or she finds important. It can make books and lines seem inert as you struggle to conform your reading to theirs. Another reader's opinion by necessity forces yours to slide off unless they are similar enough to yours to allow you to substitute your impressions for theirs and their insight for your own.

My mind was starting to feel rigid and today, for a few minutes, it was permeable. Permeable and bouncy like the wood beneath me--the way a good novel should be, allowing the reader to slip into the cracks, snag on the ideas, and ultimately polish the words with use and thought.