Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tiny Dogs and Symphonies

Mom's papillion is curled up so that he can take advantage of the warmth from the laptop and my lap at the same time. He's been twitching throughout Ride of the Valkyries and jumping up every time he thinks he hears the squirrel land on the sunscreen over the porch.

Despite that, he's managed to snooze a good part of the afternoon right here while I work on non-NaNo projects and try not to snooze while the laptop is precariously balanced between one leg and the arm of the chair. It's one of the few times I'm grateful to not be thin--my body provides proper spacing for all the denizens of the chair and we are quite cozy, thank you.

What I am not doing this week is reading much more than one of Mom's collection of Margery Allingham's Albert Campion novels. He has a discursive narrative style and is a chatty and allusive protagonist; however, I fear that he suffers in my own devotion to Sayer's Lord Peter Wimsey. There is, moreover, nothing that compares to scratching the tummy of a heavy-lidded pup who is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the nephew from school. Every heavy truck that passes makes him stare at the back door.

This was not the week that I should have planned to get the entiret of my novel finished, particularly since I am so amenable to the least distraction down here. Just being able to walk out of the house and to lunch or to the center of an older town not yet redone for tourists is a pleasure. There are architects and lawyers and hair salons and quilt stores and sandwich shops and a pool hall and buildings in the footprint of the 40's, low with wide covers for people who are on foot. Such a gracious design completely absent in the blank facade of a big box store.

So I am not storing up words but I am storing up the feel of a day's hike, the difference between grass and concrete underfoot, and the way it feels to come to the end of the block on which you grew up and sense that you are leaving the bubble of familiar space and are, perforce, encountering something new.

Harp music seems to work best on the pup.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mall Trek

My mom's dog has retired to his bed and the cloud bank that built while I was out has crept close enough to make the hallway and room giving off this one a black blankness, save for the window and the shiny bronze magnolia leaves visible through it. YouTube on this laptop doesn't sound much better than the Walkman I had in high school.

Earlier it seemed like it was going to be a nice enough day for a ramble over the concrete paths to the local mall and I set out with the intent to pick up a sweater against chillier days later this week. When I was younger, the mall was the place to daydream--either about who you could be (it was the 80's--i was loud and tacky) or what would you be when LJ was firmly behind you. There wasn't much on that side of town, just the mall and a couple of parks.

Now, the mall sits across the street from Wal-mart and languishes. It happened to the center of town and it spreads outward, a slow silence and irrelevance. At one point, the low lights, empty storefronts and carpet meant that I passed through a section in silence, living an undreamed emptiness. After the cold front storms the coast, I'll take myself through the old center of town and see what I can of the places that I remember.

I do remember that I like the clouds and the way the sky opens over the flatness, without quite washing us away.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Deal Is...

Yesterday I started a scene that I hoped to use to sop up several of the 50k that I'm supposed to be writing as part of my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) novel. Before I was well started, doubts started hammering in. Then I stopped writing and the fetters fell away.

We all know what we're supposed to do with doubts. Ignore them, lock them up, throw them out; do anything with them other than pay attention. I wanted to do that and just keep going. I was planning on getting t-shirt at the end of November and there are badges, too (for those of you don't know, I've been a badgeaholic since Girl Scouts). I've done this for several years now and there is NOTHING ELSE GOING ON IN MY LIFE RIGHT NOW. This should be easy.

It was easier, as it turns out, to listen to the doubts. To finally hear the criticisms from my current and former writing groups about my lack of clarity and emotion, to hear the Pumpkin King's concerns about the general lack of interest that my plot inspires, and, finally, to hear the reality underneath all of those writing manuals. Writing well is difficult and it requires skill and attention and drive.

The deal is that I'm lazy. That working for nothing (on the miniscule chance that I'll ever be published) no longer inspires me. My characters don't speak to me and the plots don't unspool like a movie in my head. Pushing myself toward publication and revision just left me frustrated.

I like to read. That should be enough.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Morning, Quiet

There are always so many little things to be done that the pressure of them builds like a storm front while I'm at the keyboard. November, with it's novel frenzies and holidays, is the nicest time to light the candles and open the windows, but the hardest month in which to take a break.

I'm reading my typical stack of things this month, including an old Andre Norton nove (Quag Keep), but not making as much progress as I'd hoped. I started the month with a complete rejection of the fantastic--who wants to go into the forests that have been so thoroughly mapped in the past? And yet, the parks they have become are comfortable.

Part of me would like to eschew a month of novel writing for a month of trying out the tasks I set before my characters. What would it take to walk from the Gulf Coast to Houston on foot? How long would it take? A caravan of novelists hiking through Texas would be a blast. Perhaps at the end of a month, there would be something left over to write about without the hollow feeling that's following me this year.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fantastic October

While putting off the inevitable typing that breaks the Novel away from perfect conception and into rough physical text, I'm working with my photos from RenFest and Halloween to recharge my 'fantasy batteries.'

This time of year in our part of Texas when the days don't beat down your doors and windows and stalk you through the den and into the cool holt of the library.

Instead, they lure you into the familiar sand of parks and festivals, until part of them is ground into you, mingling the dust of the page with that of the ditch and byway and the trips made thereon. We were in the Arboretum yesterday when I sat down on a bench over an empty streambed and let my feet hang over the edge. I was looking for some of the hidden things we'd seen the day before at the fair, the creeping things that were underneath the tangles or the slow things that were paused in the sun. We found a row of turtles along a bench, stretching and shoving each other off stiffly to float among the pine cones in the shady water a few feet from our bench.

There were no leaf falls the way we'd been getting them, the stiff breezes that cleared out the first of this year's falling leaves with an brief interlude that lacked only a fiddle to set us all twirling.

It was the opposite at the festival--fewer leaves falling, but plenty of music to set people spinning. Then it was Halloween and we were lighting candles and plugging in pumpkins and handing out chocolate. Everything grinning and flickering--a holiday of shadows and scurrying and cautious laughter.

With the passing of October, Fall continues to feint at us. A formal edge glints along the coming seasons and the novel curls deeper in its burrow, safe for a few more hours from the clatter than will scare it forth.