Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Peas, and Then More Peas

I feel like I'm on the Good Intentions subduction zone, heading straight for the heat. Currently, I'm sitting in Hastings in LJ wasting my already iceless iced tea on considering all the ways this cafe is made of fail. Starting with being staffed by the Tiffany Clique and continuing through a table that faces a row of dudes on their laptops in a way that makes it seem like I'm the moderator of a particularly random standardised test.

There is a word count that I'm not making while I contemplate Counter Tiffany and her thankless task of telling customer after customer that they don't carry bottled water and then filling orders for iced tea while she is reminded that it's hot outside. We are all becoming heat puppets through which this oppressive weather can contemplate its navel--am I hot enough? Have I achieved my potential? What is my thermal goal? How many heat puppets can I bake on a single stretch of asphalt in one afternoon? (All of these questions will be on the test. None of the answers appear in the moderator's guide.)

I keep thinking that being in LJ will make the story flow more easily, that there is an aspect of writing practice that is just as much place dependent as it habit. So far, it seems that the disruptions of the past few years, the new roads, new stores, new blank spaces, serve to make me want to run around to each familiar location, make a talisman of the map, and promise myself I'll catch up on the word count when I'm not distracted by the half-familiar. Or distracted by a little girl repeating over and over again "I hope she dies, I hope she dies." Creep quotient achieved!

So...the peas. Mom bought a basket of unshelled peas this morning before realizing that shelled ones were also available. Part of the afternoon was spent shelling purple hull peas, something I think both of us thought would go faster and produce more discussion than it did. Instead of talking, we spent the time trying to get all the peas in the bowl (instead of on the floor) and talking about how many, very, very many, pea pods could be stuffed in a basket. Most discussion topics petered out. You think an activity supports talking or writing and all it really supports is the activity itself. I should know better by now.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Excellence or Madness

Possibly because the writing has been slow going of late and because I'm trying to blow through a stack of books before it experiences a catastrophic balance failure, I've been full of things I've read rather than things I'm writing. Which led to a conversation last night about books you remembered and the dearth of books that remained with you over time.

Last week I happened to finish two books, one that I loved and one that I felt was wildly oversold. Given the fact that I'm no longer twelve and the books I'm reading are less and less likely to be the first variation on a theme, I hope that I'll remember the former and let the latter fade into...but I fear that I will remember the latter mostly because it disappointed me and then pissed me off.

This is actually a great way to remain in my memory: occasion the kind of rant that lasts all afternoon and is basically a variation on the theme of "started out great, imploded, can't believe I read the entire thing!" The effortless remembrances of disasters (not unlike romantic or embarrasing events from your past) indicates that perhaps I should strive for a tale that fails in a spectacular shower of missed opportunities, cliches masquerading as fundamental truths, and endings that plunge down into baroque dungeons of WTFery. If I can tread the fine line between wall-flinging (as the last of the Twilight books did not, for me) and outraged force-march to the end that would be ideal.

Of course, the uneasy acknowledgement that perhaps I can't avoid the above even if I try to do so...and that I'm more likely to hit dead center of obscure puffery that evaporates from the brain instantly...well, pick a target, right? Excellence or madness.

Will the excellent book be as memorable as the one that failed? I hope so. The story of the witch who fought a forest (Naomi Novik's Uprooted) was a great fairy tale. I loved discovering its secrets and catching glimpses of half-familiar characters whole and living in a land I would visit again.

But the one that made me mad...well, it's hard to pass up a good rant.

So the question remains. Excellence or madness?

Thursday, July 9, 2015


Sometimes, you just have to turn off the radio/tv/internet until you can catch your breath and get over the frenzy. But there's always the frenzies waiting on the silence: what is that weird twinge? What exactly did I say last weekend? Was it as rude as it seems now? Was that a shadow or a bug? OMG, what is that freaking twinge?!?

It's summer not far from the Texas coast, so hurricanes and crazy weather are always a popular area of concern, but Houston has already had been partially submerged this season and I suspect it would happily float down the bayou and keep spreading.

And how do you process the information that comes in, the shouting and the implications and the stories that spiral ever more shrilly into apocalypse? I have a draft in front of my about a simple sadness and it floats from my head on the flood of darker fears and deeper anger that, as yet, refuses to be channeled in a story. Last night's good advice was to keep your eyes open but to understand that you have to keep moving forward. Be aware, not paralyzed.

It's not fear, exactly, that slaps the pen out of my hand. It's that awful attention, the face pressed against the glass that refuses to turn around. The need for distraction or horrified attention.