Sunday, April 28, 2013

We Have A Squirrel!!!

We have a squirrel temporarily resident in the small oak tree in our front yard. While those of you in more established (or undeveloped, as the case may be) areas may be tired of your squirrel population--yes, Mom, I know they can be destructive little buggers--I am finding our single squirrel both a salve to my conscience considering the clear cut suburb we live in and a quiet, alert alternative to the tiny, loud flock of birds who are also living in tha little tree.

The birds, in fact, are approaching deer status in my mind. It wasn't until we moved out here and I had a few surprise trail encounters with deer in local parks that I decided that unfenced deer actually scare the bejesus out of me. Although a flock of small brown birds are probably not capable of running me over in a dark corner of the yard, they do have a tendency to explode from rustling bushes or swoop down from low perches while you are trying to move quietly so as not to startle the two birds you can see. Step, step, whoosh! Ten birds you didn't see are zooming past your face. Psych!

The presence of the birds that feasted on sunflower seeds last year reminds me that I need to get more sunflower seeds in the ground (more birds, more seeds, right?) and move my writing out to the back patio with the lizards and the wasps and the birds. Maybe this summer will be the year that I finish the tale of King Derf the Half-tailed and his war with the Red Army of the Sun Queen. Whether said army will be composed of ants or wasps...not sure. Both of them tend to hang around the sunflower bed. Maybe an army and a flying division?

Working outside will be a good way to break up the writing day, since it's only really pleasant in early morning or late evening.

Next post will be all morning glories, since the one in front finally bloomed. Maybe with a bit about King Derf? Who is probably looking forward to the vines becoming extensive enough to become his summer palace...according to the Pumpkin King, a version of Derf spent part of the winter hibernating in the giant bag of potting soil that I left on the porch. Just part of the unexpected links between vampires and anoles.

Friday, April 12, 2013


We were traveling west this evening, first down FM 1960 to pick up comics, then further on the same road until it became Hwy 6 to find a burger. It wasn't until we passed under the freeway that signaled the road's name change and the conversation shifted from where to eat to whether dinner should be the final stop before the great turn and the homeward drive that I noticed it.

Trying to determine whether a new bookstore was in the same place--and possibly a reincarnation of--a store we'd visited just post-college, during the first iteration of Magic, for gaming paraphernalia, we began talking about the first house.

We didn't have it for very long. It was in a small neighborhood just off Hwy 6 and down from a tiny mall that felt like a pin in the outer boundary of the city. Beyond the mall it could be all cattle and two-lane, dwindling until caught by the spur of another expanding town. I had one cool season to enjoy the second-story window ledges, an elbow and a glass of tea balanced on them while I read on the floor in a pile of pillows or laundry.

We locked ourselves out on the patio on New Year's Eve Y2K because we weren't yet familiar with the way the aluminum bar fell just so. One of the women I worked with recommended a Mexican restaurant down the highway and we went for the pickled carrots and the double height ceilings and the food.

Once, we came home from visiting my in laws up I45 past Buffalo, exiting 1960 and taking the long road home. We must have hit this section at a similar time in the evening, with a car full of sleepy dogs, and I know that we usually came to the gaming store in the evenings after work. Tonight the sun is sinking but far enough from the horizon to blear through the windshield. If we keep going west, I imagine we can get to the house, get back to Wynn and Baron as they were then, when our backyard was large enough to run through and pears fell into the back corner.

Driving west on the broad, pale road is tracing backward toward the last time that forward motion felt like progress. I miss the house I barely got to know and the dogs who knew so many other places, even this house so much further north and east.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Last night's meeting showed me once again that although I'm smart enough to understand that I tend toward obscure prose, I'm not quite smart enough to identify obscure prose during revisions. Thus, this morning's stroll kept bringing me back to the topic of specificity. I'm sorry this gadget doesn't support uploading pics, but the ones this morning weren't necessarily good; rather they were about the fine details in the weeds bordering the woodland trail.

There are gorgeous, showy delphiniums and poppies in the curated beds in pastel and deep purple shades. Along the woodland trail, though, there are the tiny salmon flowers that I used to love in elementary school. These are plants that reward being low to the ground and grows in the shadow of trees and in the semi-mowed grass of playgrounds. It's a detail that might have been lost in the clover and dandelions but wasn't because it was previously familiar to me.

Similarly, details build a story by letting the reader borrow familiarity with situations and emotions they might not otherwise have.

I tend to mistake pretty details for important ones.While the delphinium beds are pretty, the salmon weeds trigger a personal reverie. I remember a spring afternoon on the playground listening to Tammy list all the items she'll bring to gym locker when we go to the junior high next year and have a formal gym class. She ticks off deodorant, hairbrush, etc. She's leaning against a tree, the rest of in a circle around her. For a few minutes, she's an expert on transitioning from kid to teen. Tammy's ordinary playground aggressiveness is now a social strength as we think about reverting to the bottom of the totem pole. It's also the last year that I see her, since I believe she moved that summer. By the next year, my focus was on the post-lunch cliques rather than the weeds that survived their feet. Thinking about growing up in Lake Jackson also reminds me of that initial drive to write.

Back to the draft, therefore, and the missing details and the unnecessary filigree.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Angst and Good Taste

Last Friday, I asked my husband to read a draft, which turned into a massive argument regarding the epithet "angsty" and whether it's possible to critique fiction in a genre you neither respect nor care for. It was a fun discussion.

--digression: Varda just popped up on the chair to give me a kiss on the forehead. Trying to determine if she's trying to play or barf up the twigs she ate earlier.--

Okay, angst. Not sure why that particular word lodged in my consciousness and is functioning like a Pong paddle (ancient reference alert) in blocking revisions. To me, "angst" is what I'm supposed to grow out of in my writing, it's self-aggrandizing melodrama. If my characters are angsty, they are annoying. If my plots are angsty, they substitute fake emotion for authentic.

When the backpedalling began (isn't lit fic basically all angst?), I was already re-evaluating what I was trying to accomplish. It seems sometimes that I am like the bug in the Phantom Tollboth who swam through the Sea of Knowledge without taking on a single drop. Critiques are difficult to take on and I'm not great at it. Not unlike this post, I'm tempted at times to deconstruct the critique while taking all the negativity on board.

I didn't want to hear the word or see the broad outlines of how I construct a story. I tend to start with an image and emotional impulse rather than a plot, a distinct voice, or a miniature movie. My characters rarely begin life in motion. Perhaps I'm just as stuck as they are?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday in the Park, No George, Several Tiny Dragons

After spending yesterday working in the backyard beds, I was eager to visit a more complete garden and so headed to Mercer first thing this morning. In addition to flowers and quiet and squirrels, the arboretum is where I get a chance to poke around in my "story brain" without feeling pressure to commit perfection to paper; it is a place where writing and play and make-believe are kissing cousins.

This began earlier than usual this morning, with a beige bra strewn in the middle of one of the roads that curve through the neighborhood and a great black dog with a feathered coat and an odd bend to the back legs--skinwalker out for a morning jog? With her family, perhaps...there was a man jogging with a stroller just around the next corner. Urban fantasy isn't really my genre, but the imagination takes what it can from the morning, stealing not just scenes but, if one is lucky, the pull of the wind and the sense that you are in the same vigorous current that pushes the clouds, the imperative motion of spring

The arboretum itself more high fantasy. As frustrated as I get with my writing, there are always new nuances hiding in the delphiniums and poppies and azaleas, in the lizards rustling beneath the greenery, in my trying to walk silently so as not to scare the frogs until they've been thoroughly photographed, and in my own inevitable paranoia about spiderwebs in my hair, frog squeaks as they leap underwater, and deer. (Which I love to see from a car window or behind a fence but not perked and staring on the same path on which I'm walking.) Fear and the wonder are fairy tale elements well mined from the morning.

I was taking pics of amaryllis when I saw with pollen sacs the color of Cheetos trying for another few grains from a highrise stalk of yellow flowers. In another section of the garden a specimen yaupon tree leaned toward the path, trunk the color of old, smooth concrete. The way the trunk flattened in the middle and swelled at each side as it bent--two trunks that had merged, maybe--reminded me of the curbs I used to take on my bike when I was younger. There is a Yaupon Street in the town where I grew up. The bee and the bicycle are going in different directions, feeding divergent storylines.

There are so many beginnings that exist in the arboretum and I am sometimes surprised to find how much of it has colonized my writing. Then again, it is a pleasant place to wander.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fairy Season

Spring has overtaken the garden while I have been clinging to my desk, fighting whatever fear or anger buffets me via the Internet. Creeping out from under last year's pots are this year's pansies, which are also peering up from the I repaired crack in the patio, carelessly broken and patched by the cheap builder from whom we purchased the house. Their slipshoddery has worn into a narrow rivulet of purple and yellow faces and one vine that is reaching up for the table like a toddler morning glory determined to ramble like it's mother through any patio fixture it can reach.

Instead of putting out needing plants, i've been discovering volunteer snapdragons hiding under the bushes in the front yard. Some of the stems grew along the ground until a thumb-stalk of pink flowers bloomed. When I knelt down for a closer look, the foot tall stalk blooming beneath the dark branches of a nearby bush was revealed. A dragon in its lair, for all the sugary pink.

This morning, the new crop of morning glories, the first to have reseeded, are blooming in among last year's dead zinnia stalks. We've had a cathedral of white morning glories and towers tufted with pink; however, each of these gave us a season and withered without remembering itself among the beds and lawn the way the purple has done this year.

It is this insistence on the part of the pink and purple remnants of yesterday's beds to slip into the rest of the yard and peer out from cover and patio that chimes with fairy footstep sneaking away from the devastation the winter and I have made of the beds.