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!