Monday, December 17, 2012

Hobbits and Donkey Kong...Spoilers and Spoilsports Ahead

Please be aware there are spoilers below regarding The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

You know that sinking feeling when you're looking forward to a book or an album or a movie and the buzz starts to turn sour? I'd been fighting that before going to see the new Hobbit movie. My own enjoyment of the movie was more than likely affected by what I've heard and read; however, that doesn't change the fact that I left the theater without any desire to see the next two films.

Which doesn't mean there weren't pieces that I enjoyed: the snorting dragon buried in his gold, Radagast and his twitchy rabbit sled, and Gollum. Radagast in particular embodied everything that I found to be right about the film: he was something new in Middle Earth and his scenes seemed more urgent and emotional than much of the rest of the film. I was concerned for the dying hedgehog, frightened by the giant spiders, and shivery as Radagast investigated the Necromancer's tower. Because these scenes weren't part of the book, my brain wasn't fighting against their rhythm or dialogue.

This was a minor problem for me for the rest of the film. The Hobbit is a swift read and Tolkien's mastery of his text means that it has a rhythm that makes for well-remembered scenes and songs. Changing these up, even if necessary for a film, still engenders a bit of mental static.

The greater problem was the lack (save for Radagast's scenes) of any sense of wonder on this journey. Bilbo and the dwarves are constantly beset by goblins and wargs (which we've seen's not MORE exciting the 53rd time around) and there is little time to sink into the story or get more from Bilbo other than grumbling. Where is his sense of wonder about the elves? Where is the sense that elves are something more than really awesome warriors...just like Rohirrim, only...less blonde? More immortal? Where are the songs, Mr. Jackson? Where is any sense of mirth, merriment, or camraderie? it is. In the silly giant-headed goblin. Who lives in the Middle Earth's version of Donkey Kong's skyscraper, were we will spend several minutes racing across rickety wooden catwalks while I silently tick off potential hints for a future videogame. And once we're done with that, look, more wargs and goblins. Perfect for heroic last stand for Thorin and Bilbo, right?

However, Gandalf has already summoned the eagles (there is no sense, mostly because the animals still don't talk, of the eagles as beings with free choice) and so everyone is rescued and left on a giant rock. After a chance remark from Bilbo, we're treated to a reminder that there's a dragon somewhere up ahead and then the film ends. With a giant thud. I guess the dragon is supposed to inspire me to want to see what happens next, but I already know what happens next. I've read the book.

For me, this film demonstrates that the scripwriters & director were more interested in creating a prequel to the LOTR films than in telling Bilbo's story. Perhaps this couldn't have been done successfully. On the other hand, Middle Earth was pretty interesting from his perspective. I'm not as interested in it as merely a combat setting.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Yesterday, a young mother and her son were sitting on the floor in the office waiting area and she was trying to encourage him to start walking. While seated, she would stand him up, let him go, and then encourage him to step forward. Although he was enjoying himself (at least, he was smiling as hugely as possible at those of us passing through waiting area), he tended to lean forward and fall toward her rather than walking. Each time he leaned and began to fall, she caught him. He was having fun falling forward.

I was reminded of him this morning in B&N, as I was poking through the new book shelves and came across an illustrated book about snowmen after dark. At a certain age, you could fall into a book like that and be caught every time by the artwork and the story. Living here in southern Texas, an illustrated book of snow and snowmen pretty much counts as fantasy literature, too.

Not that I imagine that there arms out there waiting to catch me, but I miss that sense of falling forward into wonder, the excitement of not-quite-able-to-catch-yourself that requires trust that something is there to catch you. Lately, I've lost this trust both as a writer and a person. This means that I'm not letting myself go with the stories that I'm working on. Years ago, I would have just slammed out whatever I was feeling. Jealous of a cousin's perceived good fortune? Blam! Short story about children fighting in the dirt hills of a local construction site.

Does this make for great literature? Sometimes, although not for me. What it does is connect me more thoroughly to my inner writer rather than my inner editor/pessimist. My inner writer...let's call her Betty, for the part of me who trusts herself. Betty is not willing to say that she's happy taking on something that makes her uncomfortable. Betty does not believe she's useless because she had another birthday or doesn't have kids. Betty believes that she's incredibly fortunate to be alive, to have a Frappucino and a few minutes to stare at all the people in the cafe and the freedom to reimagine them. She's not embarrassed by her lack of publishing credits. She believes you should be embarrassed because your tomato crop wasn't accepted by Whole Foods' supply chain last season. Betty can be bitchy.

I don't trust Betty. Lately, I'm not willing to give her than a few tiny sheets of notebook paper on which to scrap novel. She's trying to encourage me to fall back in with her (aaahhhh!!! metaphor torture!!!! stop with "falling"!) while there are others who are encouraging me to pack her away and stop stumbling around. To get over myself. I think I'd rather have a chorus line of snowmen. Even if they don't catch you, the snow angels will.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Books and Piles

Last night my brother popped into his son's room at my parent's house--they're just down the street and so their guest room becomes my nephew's default room unless someone kicks him out while visiting my parents, as I was that night--and grabbed a thin book out of the stack at the foot of the bed.

A bookshelf had been moved out of the room and piles of books lined the hallway. Mom had made a stab at separating the books that had belonged to each of us as kids and I'd added the book my brother was now holding to my stack. Of course, it had been in the house since I'd been in elementary school (quick quiz--can you name every teacher from kindergarten through fifth grade? Second grade drops out for me.) and I remembered reading it; however, he remembered buying it at a book fair and was determined to keep it there.

When it comes to a digital chunk of books that we've lost ownership of and stacks of old electronic devices, have we lost anything?

Neither of us had read the book under contention in years but last night I did read a couple of teen romances I think I might have borrowed (by now, permanently) from a friend. They were awful, full of the kind of syrup and rigid character roles you find in mediocre sitcoms. Compared to the stuff teens have today, these are middle-grade at best. I remember reading them and envying the lip-glossed/perfect hair heroines and trying to fit those crazy rigid structures over my own experiences. Silly as they are, I've brought them home to live on our bookshelves.

As we share the space where we used to live, the books where our imaginations used to live scatter. If this stacks end up somewhere like Half Price, who's going to read them? We're talking about teens who are waiting by phones that are attached to the wall. Is it better to have those experience dissolve into the past? These are farcical relics--the "historical documents" of Galaxy Quest.

Guess NaNo does this to me. As I scramble to fill up the 50k word quota this month, I start to think about whether my obsession with books makes me a writer, a hoarder, or just a Former English Lit Major. And why my normally not-much-of-a-reader brother is so obsessed with his old books.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Souls Day, NaNo Day 1

Food Court, Willowbrook Mall.

I'm hiding behind a giant styrofoam container of blackened chicken and rice. It's too early for coteries of tired shoppers; instead, a thin sprinkling of workmen, mall walkers, small families, and sales people rime the outer tables of the food court. Despite the background patter, the place seems quiet. I am cushioned in a crinkling bubble wrap of noise. It is too loud for desultory speech to carry, even that of the center fountain's linear falls of municipal water. Men are the predominant singletons.

Perhaps I have ordered the Polyglot Medley, summoning my surroundings like a dish from one of the ambiguously ethnic rice & meat places from which I have ordered my own lunch. This is the beginning of my daily 1700 words. For now they are coming at an orderly pace, like a stream of cars exiting a freeway. Some thoughts slip forward, connected to observations and memories that aren't related to this exit, to this place.

More people come to the court and the balance shifts toward women singletons. Perhaps to parity. I don't bother to count because the Day Crowd has begun to weave through the outer tables.

A few years ago, I noticed them. Constrained to constant unobserved motion, by age or custom, they will break out at night into the slow, glittery, loud clusters of chaos that mark the mall at dusk. The Day Crowd becomes the Evening Crowd. They are magic--which has both steady ritual and random flash. We call for it and wait upon it. Its answers pinch us or sting us or amaze us, according to whim.

At all times, this is their court.

For a place dedicated to food, little smell of food lingers. The predominant scent at this table is soap, mop water predominates at other, and fried starch is limited to those tables on which it rests. The Day Crowd--working their ritual--keep erasing the traces of what came before. Once a table is left, all the symbols etched in the air and on the surface are effaced.

Every set is removed as it is inscribed. This is Day, and everything must pass the test of the sun--it must be blank enough to give back the light. I slide the notebook closer to me, careful to keep my notes in my own shadow and the bright white pages that I am defacing with text away from the sun bars falling on nearby tables.

When the Evening Crowd arrives, the electric lights won't have the kingship sunlight possesses. They will laugh and shriek to each other, draw dark lines around their eyes and lips so that the shadows recognize them, and become careless of the marks they leave and the words they utter. They Day Crowd comes early to clear away the workings.

Who can hear the shadows under this rumble anyway? This sea of sound beneath the sun, this aquarium of discourse, is more than enough to pacify them. The light roils the words and drops dark images of the pale slats upon the tables and floor. Any leftover incisions or scrawls would disturb the crisp images. The Day Crowd will leave no such remnants.

Even now, a few of them wander past my table. One casually brushes someone's earlier leavings from beside me. I smother the writing with my forearm and shovel another forkful of rice into my mouth. The Evening Crowd forgets. All of the formality of the Day, the stories, the morals, the memories, are written in lines and marks on the Day Crowd. They cannot efface themselves until the sun sinks and the forgetfulness takes them. Until then, everything else must be cleaned away and rewritten, or overwritten, on their silence.

Each sliver of sound becomes something I must see. Schools of sound becomes songs or ads or family discussions and most flash past without breaking their rhythm. An old Simon and Garfunkel song whispers to me. The Day Crowd moves in silence, but they are drawing closer. Soon they will ask if I am done, signalling that I must move on. It is late in the year; the turn toward evening will take place this afternoon. I can feel the tide in the conversation, running higher toward a brightness just after noon.

Then something clear--a silver whisper from the double shadow of body and table beside me. I get up, lunch over, concentration broken.

It is only as I'm driving home that I look up and see at an intersection a cloud, then a dappled shadow, then a white van turning the corner that I remember the Day Crowd is part of who I am becoming. I have forgotten the evening for the pattern of my days. Was the whisper earlier a question? When will forget myself and answer?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Once Upon an Afternoon

Traffic was thick as cement this afternoon and the new route home tangled me up around a toll road so that I was later than usual to the turn not far from the arboretum. I was mentally rehearsing Monday's paperwork and plotting highlighter colors, building up the kind of internal Charybdis that sucks all thoughts to lightless depths. I had pulled out the fiddle CD and was listening to an NPR fund drive. I had wedged the writer closed with ancillary workplace drama and was beating her with pledge pleas. I was becoming cruel with impatience. Perhaps I would forfeit the lift that turning for home should bring because I was already navigating by habit.

Instead, the sun graciously highlighted a maple for me. A warm white smoothed out the greenish silver of the trunk and gave the golden undersides of the leaves, otherwise a thick matte green--the color of lawns or plain green crayons--an uplit shadow and sharpness. As the light incised the tree upon its surroundings, it reminded me of the abandoned arboretum and the way I'd given it up over the summer and then picked up something else to fill my fall days such that the maples on the pathway to the pond were strangers, if they had survived last year's drought and this year's reimagining of the trails.

I didn't seek out flower fairies in the nooks and crannies of the park; rather, I imagined queens disguised as maples among the pines. And when I became lost, one of them came looking for me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Waves of Nacre Empty of Pearls

I jammed a pen into the palm of my hand this afternoon, accidentally, while I was fishing it out from under the desk at work. For a second or two I thought I'd punched a hole in my skin. Instead, I had an effaceable scar, a slash of ink pointing at the divot that has since vanished.

I'd like to the think that all the frustration of the past few weeks--my sleeping instead of writing, my running away to RenFest every weekend instead of writing, my vivid nightmares instead of writing--has struck.

Instead, I'll have to blame the clumsiness on my slow adjustment to my schedule and my general lack of coordination.

Why, if I am so jealous of the vanished space (time) in which to write, am I playing City of Heroes again? Especially now, with only a month or so left until the entire game shuts down? That, too, has to do with writing.

I am chasing a particular kind of space in my brain within the game. COH has always been a cheat for evoking that kind of Saturday morning, cartoony dreaminess. I don't care about the exaggerations of violence and romance that pop through the average novel. I'm looking for the kind of suspension that a great poem or a flowing Tolkien passage gives me, the kind of sunlight-on-the-grass, bicycle-on-the-sidewalk, you-are-air, sunlight, and world-in-miniature feeling that I used to get just from being in motion. That rambling sense that you could find a passable wonder just over there just before your safe return.

For whatever graphical reason, COH sparks that in my head. It is, perhaps, a cheat; however, it is a cheat that gives me a sense of breathing room where formerly I had none and a good excuse to blast frustrations at the same time.

Perhaps I am too anxious a person to be a brave writer. Safety and suspension are great for swimming and biking but not so much for sustaining a plot. I would never jam a pen into the hand of my characters and they are the poorer for it.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Well, this has been a bit of a sudden stop. Last week I had the opportunity to go back to work for a few days and, while there are many good things about that, the exhaustion and mental fuzziness that comes with shifting sleeping schedules and the stress of new situations pretty much sunk any writing I otherwise would have done.

I'm extraordinarily grateful, therefore, for my writing circle. I've been putting what has become a difficult draft out for comment and last week they came through with the kind of basic questions that shake out a plot and link you back to your original creative enthusiasm for your draft.

Not that I've done much about it. Instead, I've started having regular nightmares (4:30 am - 5:00 am) and walking around the house like a zombie while trying to reestablish functionality. This upgrade may have permanently disabled parts of my operating system.

Since drafting is at a standstill and I'm sleepy all the time, I'm finding that I'm looking forward to Halloween as a more-creative-than-usual break. I found myself last night experimenting with drawing masks on with eyeshadow (because why not?) and THAT has given me a why to hang on to shreds of creativity through the fuzziness. My characters need a more vivid visual establishment, both in the text and in my mind's eye. Right now I feel that I know them more as energies haunting the plot than as flesh-and-blood creatures recognizably moving through their world.

So, I'm off to find out what each character looks like--what Chaos might wear to her wedding to Decadence, what a minor Fate might carry to cut her own bindings and sip like a spider on wicked fairies in the garden of the witch, and what a dog transformed into an old man might find when he looks in a puddle.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A Fast Reader Becomes A Slow One

My favorite used bookstore is expanding a bit into new books and therefore my recent trip there included buying a copy of J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy. I'd heard/read nothing but good things about this novel and, while I was outside of the suggested age range for the Harry Potter series, I had read and enjoyed them. My mom did her best to make a Anglophilic reader out of me and PBS broadcasts of Dr. Who, Red Dwarf, and the Mystery series pretty much sealed the deal.

As you can probably guess from this above list, I'm partial to genre fiction...but not so much so that I don't read lit fiction.

As I began reading, however, I realized that this is one of those books that's going to have to go back on the shelf for some time before I pick it up again. Ms. Rowling's characters are flesh-and-blood and frighteningly mortal from the start and they get under my skin, uncomfortably so. She fillets the empathy directly from the surface of my heart.

The book settles in the part of me that is worried about what I've come to think of as my career amputation--this occurred over a decade ago when the Pumpkin King and I decided to move out into the suburbs to pursue job opportunities. I left a job that made me happy for one that turned out to be little more than drama and paranoia and that ended badly. After that, I floundered until finding a job that ended with the closing of the company just as the economy tanked. Since then...blankness.

All of sudden, I'm encountering article after article that shows people roughly my age with a raft of accomplishments behind them and now this book--which hangs a scythe over my imagination. It's just a mismatch of circumstance and reader; however, it feels like a condemnation.

But the book is really good. I promised myself I'd read one page a day until it was done. It is probably worth the discomfort. I should know sometime in July 2014.

Monday, October 1, 2012

COH, Anger, and Art

This is probably not going to be my last post on this topic; however, it's a perfect (cool, windows open, green grass candle flickering) time to start becaue that juxtaposition--real breeze, peri-autumn mood swings, and fake outdoor scent hints at the place NCSoft's City of Heroes game made for itself in my life. City of Heroes (COH) is an MMO in which you can play either a hero or a villian in the bustling metropolis of Paragon City, a beautiful municipality that attracts aliens, mobsters, gang members, soulless magical practioners, evil corporate henchpeople, scary carnies, psychic robots, and megalomaniacs like one of those sticky rollers picks up dog hair.

COH takes place in "the present" and is a fairly bloodless game with simple game mechanics and a plethora of costume options. As a former Barbie clothing addict, the costumes proved quite the distraction (and quite the PITA when it came to capturing images of my characters...more about that later). There are holiday events (rogue snowmen! wicked trick-or-treaters!), a relatively convivial team atmosphere, secret bases, and while the game is far from perfect, it is the closest equivalent I've found to spending some time living in a Saturday morning cartoon. It was also "safe" for the nephew during the time when that was a concern.

Then, NCSoft decided that it wasn't cool enough or profitable enough and announced they would be "sunsetting" the game, otherwise known as shutting it down and wiping the servers, at the end of November 2012.

It's just a game, right?

Since that time, I've spent days trying to pull character images off the various servers, take in-game shots of familiar landmarks, and pull down game history and storylines for the scrapbooks that I'm making for myself and my husband. He won't talk about the game, except to request the scrapbooks. Why go to all that effort for a game (let's just ignore sports and related nuttiness, merchandising, and devotion for the time being)?

COH became part of the rituals of our year. Just as the Pumpkin King and I drive around every December searching out neighborhoods with great Christmas lights, we look forward to blowing off steam each year in Holiday Chalet, trying to beat each other's times on the ski slopes and coming up with outrageous holiday outfits. We've long since aged out of trick-or-treating and yet October brings with it in-game trick-or-treating.

The PK isn't big on socializing, but COH allowed us to get together with coworkers and friends in a manner he enjoyed.

During this long stretch of unemployment, I've been fortunate to be able to get online every now and again and blow of steam or team up with others.

Just like a familiar drive, COH has become a good way to occupy my hands and the upper level of my awareness while allowing the creative bits to thunk around and shake loose story ideas, plot solutions, and general realizations that helped me move forward as a writer. On days when I couldn't face going to the arboretum or when I didn't want to waste the gas, COH was an escape hatch.

These are just my personal reasons why I'm sorry NCSoft is taking the game away from us.

Beyond that, I'm struck by the amount of effort and hours that have gone into designing the game and developing the storylines. Nothing could really take the place of the dynamic experience of playing the game; however, it saddens me that the craft that went into the game could just be tossed out.

This triggered an ongoing major reevaluation for me. Was the effort worth it? Does it deserve to be preserved because it existed? What should we do when commerce pulls the plug on a game like this? When will there be a kind of Internet museum for pieces like this? (This thought, in part, was sparked by some of the fascinating scenes from Ready Player One, which I will finish, eventually.) Why would I even consider COH art?

When I was making my simple scrapbooks of characters and costumes, I was in a single-minded panic to save the character creation stories I'd worked on from disappearing. I had only written them for the game and I hadn't bothered to preserve them elsewhere. When I was working on the PK's scrapbook, I found myself wanting to capture landmarks, the familiar images of a city that I know probably better than the one I live in (because who is able to fly over one's city just above the rooftops IRL?).

What I discovered was that COH provides one of those limbic backdoors to Saturday morning. To being able to lay on my stomach in front of the TV and then bike for hours around the neighborhood. To feeling a lift in my stomach when the cool air arrived. To believing that something really cool was possible.

COH provided, in addition to all the other things mentioned above, a gateway to a physical remembrance of myself. It provided a way to zone into an experience deeply enough to transcend and overlay the experience I was having of sitting in my chair, WASZing my character around buildings.

If COH provided both an everyday transcendence and worked itself into the social celebrations of our lives, I think I can call it art. Why then should it be thrown away?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Continue Today's Theme: Flailing

I am deep in the hinterlands of Bayles & Orland's Art & Fear this afternoon and know that this is one for both the keeper and the keep-within-reach shelf. Instead of being a strict focus on technique, it is short and vivid encouragement for times when one is blocked or otherwise challenged.

This is a good thing, because a few chapters ago, I encountered the following:
Your reach as a viewer is vastly greater than your reach as a maker. The art you can experience may have originated a thousand miles away or a thousand years ago, but the art you can make is irrevocably bound to the times and places of your life. Limited by the very ground on which you stand.

I was rocked back by the idea that I'm working on things whose time has passed, that my own laziness and lack of desire to poke at painful areas while they hurt has allowed time to cave in around those ideas and block them off from full fruition. Also bound up in that paragraph (and the surrounding text in the book) is that appropriating others' cultural symbols is a bad idea. Good-bye fairy-tale road (sorry.).

The contradictions between trusting that I can navigate my own stories and the fear that my writing will completely stop if I have to eliminate the fantasy have had me spinning around uselessly this afternoon. While the dogs have started at invisible people on the porch, I've growled at self-created dichotomies and worried at the edges of the novel until it's nice and velvety. And kept reading.

I do wonder if my "ground" is too limited to support an entire novel. I've worked out my initial theme in short stories written since the novel was begun and now I have characters and a shell of plot and perhaps a new character who doesn't want the story to be consigned back to the draft file before he has a chance to see what he can do with it; is this structure to ephemeral to hold a fragile story ecosystem?

Am I trying to patch things on out of desperation? (um...yes?!) Does this mean that my Thunderbirds and leviathans are going to fall out of the sky because there is no support system for them (no game, no twitter feed, no common cultural ground)? Where and how often do you have to live with a idea or concept before it is yours or before you've used it up?

I am flailing. The dogs are kicking me while dreaming. We're all flailing today.

Reader Bashing

Apparently, the author of one of the books that I'm currently reading feels that bludgeoning me with plot points, drama, and hints about The Next Book In The Series is a great way to add heft to an otherwise light story. Romantic quirk! Wham! Trite gender stereotype! Wham! The same romantic quirk, again! By now, I'm just trying to race to the end without becoming black and blue.

The humorous grace notes (possibly induced, like cartoon bluebirds, by the pummeling of the plot) are the best part of the novel.

And, once again, I'm confirming that certain genres just don't appeal to me (hence the lack of titles & authors--it's definitely not an author's responsibility to be all things to all people). This will probably lead to heartache over the next few days as I start new books picked up under the influence of good reviews but who live in similar genre subdivisions.

Part of trying out new books is trying out new identities, something that I've been thinking about since I decided that I needed to add more discipline to my life. There is a conspicuous lack of structure in my days that I'm trying to cure by osmosis by reading books I don't like by author's whose work ethic I admire. It's not the most successful thing I've attempted, but it has led to my trying to break done some ridiculous prejudices I've built up over the years. Over genre.

Just walking into, for example, the romance section of my local B&N (because what other options are there?) embarrasses me. It seems like I'm giving up on books to peruse these shelves of here-and-gone paperbacks, instead of giving up on the idea of ranked genre divisions and on my own particular reader-bashing tendencies.

None of which has much to do with discipline, except that it works against the notion that identity is monolithic because what was enjoyed in the past and supports the idea that you work, continually, to be something. If I want to be a writer, then I must write. On the other hand, just because I have a soft spot for Tolkien doesn't mean that I am doomed to search for his legacy in every sentence that I read or write.

Unless I'm wrong and running away to literary fiction and romantic fiction and historical fiction and non-fiction will never remove that need to search for that echo and I'll be back at the computer, back at the table, back at the shelf still waiting to find my way back to dim south Texas bedroom and the chill of a blocked mountain pass and the sudden, horrible knowledge that now we have to go Under the Mountain...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Fair!

Running an errand this morning I noticed that the local elementary school had posted the words "Book Fair" on the notice board out front. Just those words and I was grinning all the way to the store and back.

Book fairs were one of my favorite things when I was in junior high and elementary school. Rows and rows of new books in the library that you could take home & keep--what could be better. Current paperbacks full of people and creatures that I had yet to meet. Oddly enough, it's similar to the way Lydia responds when we find an unexplored cave in Skyrim: "Hey, look, a cave. Wonder what's in there." That, for me, was the possibility of a book. What would I find and carry out of the new stories?

Which probably hints at why I've been a bit frustrated lately with the books on my shelf. Some of them, mostly the non-fiction ones, are interesting and give me something new to explore. But as I've tried to steer my writing in a different direction, my reading list has changed. The things that I'd like to carry out: tighter plots, more adrenaline, more romance are things that I don't find myself wanting to pick up. They are the things I never pick up in those caves: iron arrows, hide boots, potatoes. (Seriously. Can't bring myself to waste carry space on potatoes or cabbages.) The uber-gendered tropes that circle the characters like thick lines in a coloring book.

Somehow, I need to retain that sense of discovery that I had back in the day for reading in my own writing. And it doesn't need to be perfect or published for me to find it. In fact, it's better that it isn't. Writing was something that I always wanted to do without ever noticing that I was doing it.

Which seems an odd angle on which to end this post. However, I think that growing as a writer means acknowledging that you didn't invest the time in your craft when you should have and knowing that going forward your craft is going to remain strictly personal. Which is okay. I should have some cost for my lack of effort earlier.

There are still caves full of wonder and I can still poke around in them.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Irrationality and Hope

Let's just get this out of the way: politics and I are not rational bedfellows. This stems from the kind of social anxiety in which ostracism is assumed and speaking your mind is a sin. I have a deep, reflexive revulsion for candidates who demonize the weak or those they perceive to be powerless or less than human. It's been a difficult election season and Facebook has turned into my bete noir. A post or two can ruin an otherwise productive morning.

Anchors of hope are welcome, therefore, and I've been fortunate to find a couple recently. The first is a new writer's group centered on my local library. After the first meeting last night it seems like this is going to be a good, get-back-to-basics group and I'm looking forward to moving my novel draft from "when can you show it to an agent" to "how are you reweaving the plot in this draft."

The second is a book on art and fear, titled Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. If the rest of the book is as good as the beginning, several people I know will be getting this book for Christmas.

I need to get a handle on my quickness to abandon projects out of anger and the fear of weakness mentioned in the first part of A&F. Sometimes the armor is a good playlist, sometimes the subtle pressure of a good group meeting for which I should prepare something.

Hope needs to win.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Late Night Blogging

It's late where I am, past midnight. If this were a radio broadcast, you'd be listening to instrumental music and a husky-voice DJ encouraging you to chill out, relax, and enjoy the latest from a group whose music could have been transcribed from a pulse and a magnetic field. So relax and let me tell you that kind of story.

Begin with rain, the threat of clouds and the promise of cooler weather and the gasp of a strong wind current that heralds the power going out. We're sitting in the dim square of the window, which is wavering between being visible and diffusing into the same pale grey as the rest of the room. The power outage won't outlast the cool air in the house.

When the house begins to hum and the fan to whir, the light is trying for brightness but can no longer quite reach the front windows. You notice the clearing sky but not the blank digital clock on the bookcase by the bed.

It's waking up close to 10 and not realizing it until you're pulling into the Panera's parking lot and shrieking that it's almost lunch time that reminds you the power went out and the clock reset itself. You stayed up to nurse a passing queasiness brought on by a plastic cup of queso and let the clock's irrational time stamp lull you into staying up half the night clinging to awareness and a sour stomach.

And then, of course, you're blogging after midnight, not really tired but definitely getting the munchies. There's leftover Tex-Mex in the fridge. Queso seems like a reduced risk if reheated.

Not that any of this happens to you. When the post gets to you, the moment has passed and the rhythm and sentiment is unsynched from experience. There is no tone, no husky DJ to explain why you're listening.

The song ends almost before you're aware of it. Despite listening to the station off and on when you're up late, you still don't understand the language of this particular type of composition. It fades away, one more layer of time and beat and pitch unlatched from the formal staves and flickering out past you, 30 seconds, an hour, 5 days in your wake.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Break Down Lane

Actively avoiding writing at the moment. Instead, I'm wandering around Skyrim and looting dwarven ruins for no very good reason. Eventually, I will get back to Blackreach and add to my alchemy ingredients. Essentially, I need to finish the game so that I can start weaning my brain off big screen virtual questing and back into old-fashioned text adventure. :) If it would cool off again and I was spending more time hiking the arboretum, that would help.

The retreat from activeness is finding its way into the short story drafts and novel drafts and all my characters are turning into giant eyeballs without any anchoring physicality.

[side note: fixed the line breaks on the blog!! hallelujah!!]


So, physicality. I have it not, at least on the page. This wrecks the emotional fabric as well since characters who aren't paying attention to their bodies aren't reacting to danger, desire, etc. Some writers may have an easier time of this while they're writing than I do, but I have a very hard time shrinking that eyeball down and getting a handle on the rest of the character. I'm sure I've mentioned the play I saw decades ago where the expectant father fantasized that his child would be born just as a single eyeball. While I can't really relate to that fear, I find that my characters often replicate it, becoming mere looking glasses over the storyscape. Mixed metaphors are also a specialty.

Endings are not.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nothing Says Upbeat Like a Business Card

First, a minor squee over finding a brief recording of the Star Trek record I had as a kid (In Vino Veritas, Peter Pan Records). EEEEEEEEEEE!!! Just hearing the intro music made me feel 10 again. The corners of the furniture, the feel of the carpet, and the pink & blue straw-wrapped bottle on my desk surface and I'm floating--shorter, an Alice trick--in the memory. Which just tops off the kind of day where I woke up from a dream in which I'm jumping up and down telling everyone who will listen that I just got my business cards. Obviously, ordering official "writer" business cards yesterday was some kind of signal to my subconscious to quit hashing over my previous office job and reorient itself on what I'm working on now. Weird but welcome sign of finally emerging from the depression occasioned by losing my job (as the business closed) several years ago. Squees all around.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Polar Bears and Meridians

Lately, I have been obsessively creating mini-scrapbooks in those little 40-page 4x6 brag books you can get for $2 at Target. It could be that my brain is trying to tell me to tie up loose ends so that I can start on a new project (for example: getting in shape enough for costume 2014). On the other hand, it's possible that, like the heroine from my favorite fairy tale, I need to hold up a candle to some of these bedfellows and see what they really are. The most recent book dealt with the characters I'd created for the MMO City of Heroes, which was, until Skyrim, pretty much the only digital RPG that kept my attention, partially by feeding my creativity and partially by assuaging my enduring need to create and change character outfits. Barbie, I lay this on your doorstep. Anyway...COH is coming to an end. That's probably a post in itself, but as the game doesn't go dark until November, I'm putting that off. When I found out about the game I *had* to print out lists of my characters, images, and backstories. When the first book was finished, I started on a second and then ideas popped up for a few more. Summaries are where I am right now. Not yet insights, just summaries.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shut Downs and Reroutes

This has become more common lately: just as I sit down to write, I'm flagged off the writing highway by a collection of negative signals. Today, it was a FB post that slagged all my emotional energy into a molten river of irritation. (Today is mixed metaphor day @ the moon pool.) While I'm ranting and the dogs are rolling over and sighing, the mouse is hovering over the shutdown button. It would be really easy to just blink this machine off and skip this post. Skipping it wouldn't be bad and working off irritation is better than swallowing it; however, there's no guarantee that the world will be less opinionated or idiotic or rantworthy two hours or two days from now. Instead, I'm allowing myself a minor reroute through a reminder that I'm not supposed to be allowing myself to shut up--that was Me 1.0, the Quiet Version. So...back on the main road and the point of this long paragraph of a post. Last night, a writer friend took me to task for some lazy writing and I was a little...artsy...about it. I didn't quite hit the full diva "You just don't understand," slap your forehead and swing around a convenient bannister, but I did come really close to saying that the reader's just supposed to make a few leaps for this piece. To work for it. Yeah, it was a bitchy thing to imply. Nor was it true--I was so far up in my own head for this piece that I just missed how confusing the beginning actually was. Today, I think there's more to this piece that I put in it. I'm the one who needs to work for the meaning. Maybe Me 3.0 won't glitch into Lazy Mode as often.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Reading's Corrective Grace

Spending the afternoon with Conversations with Texas Writers and drifting slowly through the myriad writers I have missed in the years when I was haunting fantasy shelves and trying to stumble over another Tolkien. It never occurred to me--because foolish is my path in life--to allow different interests in my life or to note the ones that flared as they passed. Visiting Aunt Basha's walk-up apartment and trying to balance on the edge of the sofa and not sink backwards while bringing my life, my toys and my books, into her living room rather than letting her living room sink into me epitomizes the kind of selfishness that pertained from my childhood on. On a summer day not much different from this one, my grandparents, my brother and I followed a stern older man dressed in a formal blue-jean ranchwear up to a place were we could see some petroglyphs on Paint Rock. I remember the distant scrawls and the man's disgust at "teenagers" who graffiti'd the rock. Indians and teenagers were both mythical to me at the time and the red forms that glowed up under the lip of the overhang didn't spark anything at all in me except for a longing to be something else--grown up, back in the air conditioning, away from the implied distrust of young people around old things. The book that I'm reading now works to correct that selfishness, to crack open that shell of shyness and silence and remind me that the generosity of writers, their time and their attention and their effort, is perhaps the closest that I'll come to that easy Southern society of counter conversations and fearless interest in others. In my opinion, it's a hallmark of grace and something that I'll take even at secondhand, even as a correction.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Into the Pot

Having spent the past several days on Tolkien reading, in the one case a series of essays and in the other his own "On Fairy Stories," I have begun to think in terms of the Pot that Tolkien postulated contained the various story elements. From this are dipped the various stories, in all their different variations. Because this is a pot shared by both people in general and cultures in specific, historical figures may be included along with the mythical elements (such as "love at first sight"). He doesn't suggest that everyday people also go into the pot, but we do--at least in terms of family stories and the like. As much as I like this metaphor, and as much as I sense it in the family stories (we don't quite make it beyond the Purgatory of a practical degree into Paradise of graduate school, for example and some of us sacrificed Art for Piety), I find myself more interested in the way that my memories are hung in the interstices of the text and the way they pop out as I read. How does fiction form a substrate for memory? Why is reading Tolkien or about Tolkien such a quick reminder of things as diverse as my parents' laundry room, the bed in my childhood room, walking into town for one of those candies that came with a pressed sugar stick you rolled in flavored powder? Some of these things may have been directly related to my reading, but some aren't. Moreover, not every book that I read as a child carries the same charge. It's similar to when you are sick and you are suddenly flashing back to other times someone was caring for you. A state of mind, a core of experience that runs through your life not like a taste of soup but like a tentpole, to which everything is tied. To which today, and this keyboard, and the sight of the sleeping dogs, and the light coming through the blinds is being bound by loops of thought around the serifs of another paragraph. Why this paragraph and not another?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Reader, Not a Fan

I spent a recent Saturday morning watching the new Spiderman movie in the theater. It was a good movie, fun and moving in places that I'd found previous interpretations to be dull and dark. The contrast was extreme enough for me that every time the film showed images of Spiderman's high school, I wanted to take out a highlighter and circle the sunny windows. Despite them, the film managed to convey the fear and depression that sour decisions and lead to the tragedy within Spiderman's origin story. It was a good movie, but I'm still not a Spiderman fan. My own fannish obsession is being released later this year, when the first part of The Hobbit comes to the theater. Ever since a recommendation from my brother, I've been listening to Tolkien Professor podcasts (looking forward to his book this September!) and have recently branched out into "Secrets of the Hobbit" and am catching up on back episodes. I have loved LOTR since I read the books--taking them from my dad's stash of fantasy novels kept in an old baby dresser in the laundry room. You had to ask permission to read those books and, like various sections in our elementary school library, being allowed to read them meant you'd passed some kind of invisible test. Gatekeepers, secret treasures, dragons! This was the foundation for my continued search for the next book, the next treasure my heart would drag into its grasp. I became an avid reader, but definitely a draconic one. There is no room for community in my reading, although a nice heated debate is always welcome. Instead of wanting to go live in Middle Earth, it seems that I want it to live in me. Which brings me to a separate realization. I am failed Huff Girl. A non-starter academic who was never clever and determined enough to ignite a career from her passion--was I not generous enough to want to share? Did I miss that community? Generosity seems to be the mark of community and it brings me podcasts that are free and wide-ranging and let me continue to live on the edges of what I once believed that I owned, that first miraculous hit of literature. The downside to a draconic desire is a house full of books and a head full of other people's stories that become a tower with no window. Dragons, of course, aren't rescued. They sleep and they dream and they acrete until passion becomes greed and greed becomes gluttony. Well. This didn't really go in the direction that I was expecting. In fact, it got completely out of control. Grrrrr. *gout of flame* I blame yesterday's late-night novel, Tea with the Black Dragon. Instead of greedy, sleepy Western dragons, the dragon in this novel was a sleek Chinese (?) black dragon whose story was interesting up until the end, in which a romance popped up like a ill-behaved cowlick taking over an otherwise well-coiffed head. Perhaps that is unfair. I will need to re-read the story. And possibly take a nap. If the dogs are dry from their mid-morning assault on the tomato jungle, a nap for sure. Until then,good reading.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's a Marvelous Night

It's actually not yet night, although it is pretty dark outside. There are thunderstorms stalking this part of Texas and they're dimming the afternoon and muttering just outside the window. It's a marvelous non-night for a book rant and I just happen to have a few available, including two recently finished ones (Taken In by Jane Toombs and Moonglow, Texas by Mary McBride). Moonglow was a great story for a rainy afternoon--funny and quick, like a good gossip with a friend. It was a chance discovery, one facilitated by the Kindle and it's ability to download first chapters and search without genre boundaries. The first one, Taken In, was not as felicitous a find. It was the downside of the Kindle book search, an inexpensive and underwritten novella that irritated me enough to make me want a physical copy that could be orphaned at the nearest Half-Price Books. These two books had similar premises: woman in life-threatening danger needs to be protected by federal agent--requisite sparks fly. It's not a storyline that's a particular favorite; I don't read that much romance. However, I did find that humor sparks my interest more than otherwise and I received an instructive lesson in the difference between an author's perception of a complete story and a reader's.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


This post should be about formatting issues (as in, I seriously need to update Firefox so that my paragraphs aren't mushed together) or instead, I'm sitting here with the dogs listening to loud, fast music from several decades ago while staring outside and waiting for someone to drive by. Merlin (the eskie/papillon mix) is sitting as far away from as possible lest he be dragged into a bouncy dance that interferes with his nap in front of the fan. He's just the right weight to get scooped up for an impromptu shuffle across the room. Which brings me to the title of my post. Despite not getting much sleep last night, I got up early to pick up the firework detritus this morning before the dogs could eat it (there's a bunch of crap on the roof, so picking up stuff this morning did NOT prevent that). I am, in short, in need of some kind of caffeine delivery device. Preferably frozen coffee, chocolate, and sugar. However, I'm not picky. Iced black coffee would do just as well. First though, a brief interlude for Steely Dan and Merlin, who has just scooted close enough for a Muppet dance. :) Okay. Coffee. And maybe, some work. Later.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

After the Convention, What Came To Pass

Years ago, before the death of our oldest dog, a hurricane hit our city. During the hurricane, our dog had a stroke. He was already old and infirm and his behavior was only very slightly changed. After the storm, beneath a yellow sky, we talked about how fortunate we were that the damage had been minor. We didn't know at the time about the stroke. Following on, we lost both our oldest and next oldest dog--one to age, one to cancer. I lost my job and steadfastly remained unemployed. I quit my writer's groups, one after another. I developed a manageable illness that I refused to manage. We found our two youngest dogs, but their experience of us is not the same. At some point, I entered my fourth decade and shifted demographics, with all the confusion and rejection that implies. As surely as Dante did, I slipped beneath the sign and abandoned hope. It was in this state that I came to the most recent Apollocon, a state in which each thunderstorm and loss of power seemed like imps reawakening and trying to tear us from our minor shelter. There was nothing of the writer I had been or the belief that I could become one. I had tried and failed. Or, more accurately, I had thought about trying, shrugged the effort off as not worth it, and pretended to be normal. Same as it ever was. While my spouse looked forward to the Con, I dreaded it. Awkward encounters with favorite writers, irritation with meandering panels, and my spouse fuming at my (admittedly rotten) attitude. What we encountered instead was a Con that seemed subtly time-slipped away from us--panels we wanted to attend scheduled when we couldn't make them, lunches that lasted just a hair too long, dealer's rooms that were more enticing because they seemed to be livelier than the halls outside. Hobbit panels that failed to mention The Tolkien Professor (really?!!). Okay, my Tolkien obsession does overwhelm my podcast subscriptions. We never fully synched with the Con, although we did bring home several new books and a greater appreciation for Tanya Huff. Afterward...well, things are still a little out of synch. The washing machine is broken and the people responsible for fixing it are unreachable. Not being able to wash is adding to the general disorder. Last night, my spouse reminded me that entropy is the desire of the universe, random and dissoluble particles spread over as much distance as the energy available to create them and fling them outward. I don't feel flung outward. I feel like the energy is gone and the dust is sifting from me as I type. What came to pass is that we returned to the house, which grows less orderly with each day and we wait. For entropy to fizz away the care as well as the washing machine. For another storm to clear the imps from our attic. How can we know upon what we wait...or for whom?

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Revised.

My husband happens to be gifted at voices & reading--he has the sweet, old-fashioned habit of reading webcomics to me so that he can do the silly voices of Scottish cacti and punchy brunettes. Partially because of this and partially because I'm still trying to decide what to bring to my writer's group, I took him up o his offer of reading one of my short stories aloud so that I could hear it & edit it. Great googly-moogly, was that a mistake. While he's a good reader for things that he enjoys, he managed to verbally turn the story into a manga cartoon complete with emotion lines and giant bubble eyes. It was completely weird to hear the story spin on that axis. I'm not sure how to describe it, only that he read it from a puzzled perspective. His overall comments emphasized both his confusion and, therefore, his lack of emotional investment in the story. Reading a draft aloud is a good way to pick up on little grammar flubs and abrupt changes in POV or direction. After hearing the story from his radically uninspired perspective, however, all I want to do is pitch the story. Is it really as silly as it sounds? More importantly, is it worth pouring another several hours worth of editing into it to fix the problems? According to my mom, who is currently video-chatting in the background, my real talent lies in overstuffing desks. That may be because I hate watching myself in videochat and I keep putting things in front of the camera. This is also why I don't get anything done at my desk. I need like a running cartoon or something to effectively block the sight of me typing. Bleh. In goofing around on the blog, I think I'm answering my own question. Yes. Work on the story. Stop parading rubber dinosaurs in front of the camera and get some work done!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

That Did Not Mean What I Thought It Meant

It's time for stories that dissolve into the heat haze; for movies that flicker, burn, and fade; and for storms of prattle that wash even the memories of the plots away. Summer is the time for enjoying things that I don't take all that seriously. There have been two movies in particular that I was looking forward to: Snow White and the Huntsman and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The first looked like it would be a good fantasy film and the second just a wild movie (plus Rufus Sewell!). They looked like movies that my comic fan spouse would both be willing to see and would enjoy. So far, it's shocked me that The Avengers turned out to be the clever, fun movie of the summer and both Snow White and AL:VH turned out to be disappointments. Snow White struggled to find a way to balance a story of supernatural good and evil on the shoulders of an increasingly human queen--she was wicked, but the writers kept insisting that she be a figure of empathy whereas Snow White was just a blank vessel of "healing." Snow White turned out to be the inhuman force in the movie and Good became an unknowable cipher. Wickedness, on the other hand, was as human a force as they come--the fear of the mother for her child, the lust for power, the acceptance of cruelty in the name of safety. It was an interesting film, but it made me long for an adult novelization of the screenplay by an author who could address those themes and the distinct and bitter flavor of magic based on nothing more than pretty little good girls. AL:VH was disappointing because it just made me feel guilty for watching it. It never convinced me that vampires overwhelmed the magnitude of the historical events, never reached what I hoped would be a steampunky visual feast, and made me laugh in the middle of an action scene. Slo-mo or bullet-time or whatever just starts to seem ludicrous after a certain amount of time. The outrageous and beguiling trailer was the only part of the film that I was apparently able to take seriously. Movies have an easier time snaring me than books do--the trailers for both movies sold me on seeing each film. In both cases, I was taken in to a certain extent by cuts that implied a story and a mood that weren't provided in the final product. This has me thinking about e-books. E-books, at least in my experience, are bare of the kind of art direction that a novel from a major publisher has--font choice, cover art, paper, margins, and size either go away or fade in importance for e-books. This is reading that can only seduce through the written word and can only survive on the edifice built in plain text. I miss all the other aspects of books and I like (within reason) shifts in font type, paper weight & color, cover art, etc. I am easily seduced by visual imagery and just as easily irritated by product that doesn't live up to its implied promises.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Moot Story

Kara had come back to Moot to help her parents pack up the house ahead of a coming storm. This was the kind of storm that pulled the soul from the skin—a gathering of darkness that smelled like licorice and turned into snakes, the thrill that blows you down. If she believed the stories, the flags that were snapping out around the lighthouse were being caught by an unnatural wind. Her parents had sold the house on the strength of these warnings. While she no longer lived in Moot, Kara was close enough to come back often and her brother had been calling her for weeks trying to figure out what had spooked their parents. So far, the best explanation she had was a sermon she’d skipped and the flags on the headland by the lake. This late summer weekend was the last Kara would spend in Moot as a nominal resident. She was packing up her childhood room and trying to decide how to say goodbye to the roads and memories in Moot. At the moment, she was standing in a room full of her old things next to a pile of flattened boxes. Clothes, photos, and ephemera were stacked in piles around the room. Furniture was empty and ready to be loaded in the van the next morning. A set of beach towels perched up by the pillow on her already stripped bed in place of the sheets her mother had packed last week. Kara closed her eyes and imagined the city spinning out on the edge of the planet, the ground anchored in bedrock and rising all the way up through the tips of her fingers and on up to the very point of the lighthouse. She stretched as far as she could and began to feel the motion deep in her gut and her inner ear. A wave of dizziness caused her to gasp. She hadn’t ever thought of leaving Moot, of having to pack up this place and move. Her knees buckled with the dizziness and the old game caused her to stumble backward, bouncing along the edge of the bed, trying to feel for a place that wasn’t covered by stuff. Her knee cracked against the nightstand and she grabbed one of the poles on the headboard, swinging herself down to the floor. Kara’s back ached and she wanted to lay back and stare at the ceiling, waiting for the lighthouse to flash an escape beam across the white. It wouldn’t—the lighthouse was on the edge of a deep but landlocked lake and was rumored to only flash every 80 years or so. Once in a lifetime. Or, perhaps, once in each lifetime. It had been a big deal back when Kara was a senior. The light was supposed to flash for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. Her favorite story had been about a cave at the very bottom of Moot Lake in which the Lady of the Lake, the same one from Arthurian Legend, played endless hands of bridge with an old fairy woman, betting on souls and love stories. It was either the No Trumps or hearts, damnation or true love. Once a hand was decided, they would release lightning bugs to light the beacon to gather their winnings in a beam of light. Although she had looked, Kara was sure there were no lightning bugs in Moot. Kara’s parents were bridge players and, when Kara was a young child, she’d had no problem imagining the perfumed and imposingly silent adults playing at magic in hand. “Kara! Two hours until the truck arrives!” her mother yelled from the front of the house. Kara had only made it down the night before and she had only today to pack up her room and decide what to stuff in her car and what to ship to her parents’ new house half a state away from Moot. “Why are you moving again? Why couldn’t you have given me at least a few more weeks’ warning?!” Kara answered. Her mother stopped in her doorway. “Kara! You’ve been in here in all morning. Your boxes aren’t even set up. Do you know how many will fit in your car?” Kara shook her head. Her mother sighed. “Did you hear…no, you weren’t here last night. Hurry up and get those boxes set up and I’ll see if I can help you.” Kara rolled her eyes and reached down to unplug the old phone from the wall. She added it to a pile up near the head of the bed. As she straightened up, she glanced at her window. Jerking upright, she thought she’d seen two huge lightning bugs. A few yards over, a massive dog paused by a chain-link fence. The fireflies had been the dog’s eyes catching the sun. Kara’s stomach iced over. She watched as the dog seemed to meet her eyes and then loped over the edge and leapt the fence. The dogs are running. Years ago, in high school, she’d known one of the sons of the family who kept those kind of dogs—a breed unique, as far as Kara knew, to Moot. Unlike the fairy at the bottom of the lake, the Moot hounds were real. And eerie. And known to be good and perceptive hunters. Kara hurried after her mother. She found her standing in the room at the very back of the house, a project room that was now a blizzard of paper, electronic cords, and boxes. “You heard the hounds, didn’t you?” Her mother looked up. “They’ve been howling for the past week. We’ve been talking about leaving for a while. Your dad didn’t want to tell you. You like coming home.” “Are you really worried about that sermon? Demons and black tithes or whatever?” Kara rubbed her elbows. “When we found you by the lake that day, it was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. You were leaning out over the water…you know that people drown every day just on accident.” “You know that I wouldn’t have gone in the water. I was trying to see the tip of the lighthouse, trying to see the water door where they put the fireflies in. I’m sorry.” Was that the five hundredth time she’d said that? Kara felt like it was just another bead on an endless chain of apologies. “You decided to move back here when I was little. This is my home. And I don’t think it’s cursed.” “We didn’t know anything. Not what kind of place this was. Your grandmother promised us that we weren’t related to any of that…to any of the stories. Besides, I think they expected us to move. ” Kara frowned. “You mean, our story is flee-in-terror. We get spooked by dogs and scurry to some other place for a generation or so? Until it passes over?” By now, Kara’s skin was starting to pinch with a cold rash of goose pimples. Something was stirring, underfoot and overhead. “We leave. If that’s the worst or the best that we get, that’s fine.” Her mother grabbed a stack of paper and slammed it into a box, shoving against the solid paper. “Terry—you remember him? From church?—his aunt disappeared. There are plaques in the upper balcony, right along the far wall, for every person lost to this place. You heard the sermons.” “I remember the plaques.” Kara had loved to run a finger along them. They were something you only found after a certain amount of time spent in church, a marker of familiarity. “Those sermons were all about being careful of human dangers. Dating sermons.” “No. Your grandmother was the same age as Terry’s aunt. She didn’t think she was in love with that man. That’s just what the family said when she disappeared. We’ve heard the dogs, we’ve got a place to go, out by your brother and his family.” Kara nodded. She lived an hour away from Moot, in the closest city. Too close. Besides, her apartment, like her job, was temporary, until she settled into something…else. She worked five days a week in an oil and gas firm, a family business in a skyscraper that dominated a block. She’d walked by the model displayed in the lobby the evening before she came down here just as the sun was hitting the little plastic windows on the upper story, causing them to gleam like a beacon. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. You couldn’t get yourself to the lighthouse while you were in high school and you never found the lightning bugs, either. “Did the lightning bugs ever take?” Her mother shook her head. “Stop wasting time. Finish packing.” Kara returned to her room and spent an hour assembling boxes, taping boxes, and shoving stuff into boxes. She estimated that she could get half of these into her car. If she just let the movers take everything, she could quit her job, find a new one with her family, and move down to spend weekends and evenings with her nieces and nephews. Or…she could just stay up here, find a way to move back to Moot. Except that it would no longer be home. She grabbed a magic marker and scrawled a quick “Old Clothes” across the top of her latest box. Her elementary school soccer uniform, her Brownie uniform, her Girl Scout sash, and a couple of high school t-shirts—senior bonfire, graduation, and one from a church festival. That one, an autumn harvest lit by fireflies trailing away to a far spire, no longer looked to Kara like a traditional church setting. She’d known the artist, Fred Davenport. He’d drafted it in school, while Kara had watched, bored during History. His careful pencil lines had bled together in the thick plastic ink on the shirt. The fireflies could have been bees…the spire, on paper, had been the lighthouse. She remembered it as she smoothed the crackled ink down against the soft cotton. He’d changed it before submitting it. Kara had been daydreaming about it, about that light coming out and catching the two of them. She’d casually appropriated his real talent, conflated it with her own sketchier talent—imagination?—and dreamed that the beam had caught them both together, bringing them down to the grotto to weave images and words into golden nets for the burning fireflies. Had she daydreamed him transformed? It had been the 80’s; for sure she’d imagined herself in a bubbleskirted outfit of black tights and fuschia green Goth glory. Kara smiled. Poor Fred. Good thing he never had to suffer through those tight black pants and that poets’ shirt. She started laughing and stuffed the shirt back into the box. She had been packing for less than two hours, but she’s been sorting all day. The truck should be here by now. As she stood to go check, she heard her mother calling that her father was here with pizza and the truck. One more night and Moot would be behind them. Her brother Robert’s children might come back, if the town was still standing after the oddness passed. After pizza, the evening was still light. “I’m going to go for one last bike ride around the town, okay?” Kara said. Her parents waved her off as they began a discussion on what to start loading before the movers arrived in the morning. As she left, Kara glanced into the den and took in the emptiness. Boxes of stuff vanished against walls marked with webs up high and, lower down, dings and smears along the row where the pictures had been. The a/c stirred the air into unfamiliar breezes like those before a thunderstorm. Kara needed to move that emptiness through her body as soon as possible. Her bike was in the garage for when she came home on the weekends and cycled through old neighborhoods, old habits, and old memories. She could hit a few blocks before it got too dark. A Moot waking up probably wasn’t safe after dark. For someone who regularly came home, Kara wasn’t as up-to-date on who was in the neighborhood as she could have been. There was an ice-cream shop near the three-screen theater and Kara skipped calling out the familiar houses for a straight shot for ice cream. As soon as she kicked her stand down against the sidewalk, Kara found another memory trying to flare, but she extinguished it. She just wanted the ice cream and the sunset from the plate glass window. She was watching for it in line, which meant she didn’t see Fred until he leaned in front of her, waving a hand. “What’s out there, Careless?” She jumped. Packing up old things and then hearing her old nickname unsettled her. She wobbled on a fine point and felt the edge. “Sorry, just watching the sunset. Hey, Fred. Is it my turn to order?” “Not yet.” He pointed at two guys in front of him. “Back for the craziness?” Kara looked around and realized that several people in the shop were familiar. “Just here for the ice cream. Red velvet, if there’s any left. You didn’t come back for this insanity?” “So far it’s been pretty cool. Typical re-Mootyun.” “The what?!” Kara said. Fred grinned. “Just kidding. Not an official one, anyway. Everyone knew it was time to come home. There is a logo, of course.” He walked back to his table and she followed, standing at the edge and half-smiling at the rest of them. He pushed a page to the center of the table and glanced up at her. The lights caught a golden ring around his pupils and she remembered that halo. His artist eyes had always caught a little more light, a little different length of brightness. He’d drawn a circle and turned it into a road with several bicyclists following it and the lake soaking up into the emblem of the school. “I think I need another look at the lighthouse. Anyone up for biking to the lake?” *** Kara walked to the edge of the water. Her legs ached from the ride from town and she’d skipped following Fred up into the lighthouse. She'd been the only one who decided to come, despite the warm night and the early evening light. Here, as the moon threw a reflection of the pale lighthouse into the water, she could see dim flashes as something rose from beneath the surface. A school of glowing fish broke the waves just in the outline of the light. As the school surfaced, A heavy gold light fell around Kara. Her head pounded and as she blinked, a voice spoke from a few feet away. “You can’t hear the No Trumps, girl,” said a woman standing just in the shallows. Kara jumped. It wasn’t fall and her family would be safely out of town tomorrow. Tonight, however, a woman was standing in the shallows with what looked like a rope hanging from her hand. She suspected the story would say she’d gone off with Fred, who was filling his eyes with the light up at the top of the lighthouse. “An entire silent choir could be shouting your name along with those horns and you’d never know it.” A grim smile flickered across her face. Within the beam from the lighthouse, Kara’s vision dwindled to a point and then into darkness. She pressed her lids tight and opened her eyes to see stars over the water. While the woman’s voice lapped at the edge of her hearing, a frog trilled, then another. “Come on, girl. I’ve got a few more to bind over before the night passes.” Kara tried to breathe and found herself woozy again. She turned her face away from the woman, straining to smell the water, to hear the wind. At first, all she heard was the storm of fear pulsing throughout her body, then the beam shifted like headlights around the point and the stars came back into focus. Above her, she saw the ancient gasses burning but not her fate. Her heart battered her but that storm was contained. Small. I see the darkness dusty with stars, my ears are deaf to the Trumps but aware of the cicadas and frogs and the sound of voices. This perception isn’t magic. It’s mine. “If I can’t hear them, why should I care? I’ve heard scarier things piped into the grocery store,” Kara said. “You leave every time it gets close because you think we can’t touch you, girl?” A shadow slipped across Kara’s calf and the hairs along her leg stiffened in the cool. Kara shook her head. There was a darkness filling the woman’s shadow and outlining her. If Kara looked at the woman with her own heart beating a chill throughout her body, she could see the fell highlights. Then again, if she took a slow breath and looked at the water and the tree roots curling into the sand, she saw a faded memory fuzzed on the edge of her eye. A nonentity. Imagination itself trying to lure her further. “Kara!” Fred called to her; he had come down from the lighthouse. “Don’t take her hand!” “We leave because it’s either the darkness or the universe?” Kara nodded. She brushed her hands against her jeans and turned her back on the woman. The silence flared around her and was then broken by the night noises. A thump sounded and a large dog flushed a clutch of small peccaries from beneath the tree. Kara stepped back, remembering the very real threat of even small pig tusks. The peccary herd scattered away from the dog, which chased them into another patch of shadows. Fred caught up the Kara. “I saw, I mean, it was like an animation cell, a witch on the bank and you…” “I wasn’t paying attention to the dangers of the lake. Or the reality of the lake.” Kara shivered and started back up toward her bike. The truck would be there early the next morning. Fred caught up with her and slipped his arm around her hers. “Lead me back up? My eyes are still a bit dazzled.” Kara grinned and continued up toward the bikes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Late Night Gibson

For the first time last night, I dreamed of old age. On the heels of one last brief essay from William Gibson's Distrust that Particular Flavor and after an evening of an execrable MST3K film mashed together from Japanese TV by Sandy Frank, I dreamed of a deep blue room and a job that didn't necessitate leaving bed that somehow involved gently passing information disks (surreal and not entirel physical Frisbees visible as vapor against the blue) to a coworker in the information vent in the upper portion of the wall.

We were talking about shifting roles and how she had found out that China (in the entirety of its digital representation) had been a former information courier and that I should consider this as the next stage in my own growth. It seemed odd that programs with their linear functions could ever change purpose or move up in a hierarchy and I was forced to get up out of the bed to think about what had just been offered to me.

It was in getting up, in pressing the cobalt sheets away from my body and finding myself barely able to straighten up or uncoil myself from the hunch of working in bed that I discovered that I grown much older than I suspected. Not in appearance (blue is the main visible memory I have of the dream), but in my interior structure, right down to my bones.

I woke up and got out of bed. Went to the kitchen, extracted cold water from the fridge, and walked around the couch once or twice to settle myself. Horror was precipitating from the dream, from my own feeling that I'd missed the "writer" boat years ago, and from the aches left from a day in the backyard.

The pendulum of the future swings sharper now than yesterday.