Category Archives: Blogging

Monday Memories of Memory

It’s Monday. We made it through the holidays, though to be fair, our small, mostly-self-contained family usually does that pretty well. Let’s see if I can make it through a day of writing as well. I did a few errands and such first, and the most important of these was perhaps sitting in Coffee Culture in Gainesville with Rena the Partnerloverperson, drinking a peppermint white mocha and plotting out my writing for the week. (Well, the UPS store was closed, because apparently, 26 December is ALSO a holiday… God forbid federal workers don’t get a free day off if Christmas lands on a weekend. And Rena seemed to recall that she had wanted to call the UPS store that was holding our package and see if they were open. She also seemed to recall that I had said, quite loudly, “Of COURSE they’re open. UPS isn’t a government organization.” Buying her the Nutcracker Latte at the coffee shop down the road was my way of saying “I’m sorry, don’t hate me.”)

Today, I have 2000-3000 words to write and I think I might be able to make it through. I feel like there’s still a little bit of a block there, but I can see daylight through it, and I’m sure that once I pick up a few of the rocks and shift them around, I’ll be able to find the story thread where I left it and follow it into Chapter Eight and beyond. So before I strap on my industrial-strength thinking cap (complete with ergonomic neck support, environmentally safe padding, and a headlamp capable of seeing into all realms of the Aether where my Muse and her friends are wont to hang out) I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I’m reading. I’m cross-posting over at The Book Date this time, another blog that I recommend you check out some time.

This week’s book is somewhat of a reread. Back when I was in bootcamp, 26 years ago, I found myself with a little bit of time to read. We’d graduated about ten days early because of the Christmas Holidays (our Graduation day should have actually been the day after New Years) but we still had to stay there until our eight weeks were up. (That was an early lesson in Navy organization and the Sacred Rite of Following the Schedule, Even if You Had Doubled Up and Got Everything Done Early. Fortunately, things got a little better after that.) (A little.) (Very Little.) Anyway, a friend of mine had the Tad Williams book The Dragonbone Chair with him, and since I was even more a devotee of epic fantasy fiction than I am now (now, I read other types of fantasy and weird literature) I jumped at it and devoured the book. Not literally, though I might as well have. It was different from a lot of post-Tolkien literature I’d read, in that the author spent a lot of time just exploring and playing in the world and the folklore of the place (much like Tolkien) and the quirky-but-made-to-seem-normal people that inhabited it, rather than just throwing a quest or a dragon or a villain at the Chosen Farmboy, and the introduction of far-north mythology also tugged at my brain and told me that this was something special.

I absolutely loved the book, its characters, and its imagery, and a few months later, during my tech school training and before shipping off to the West Pacific, I picked up the sequel, Stone of Farewell, as soon as it was out in paperback. I never got around to reading it, though, and I’m still not sure why. Perhaps it was the Gulf War getting in the way, or the mix of bipolar and my lack of adjustment to Navy life that kept me from ever cracking its covers. Eventually, I gave the book away to a shipmate who had read the first one, and while I remember staring wistfully at the third book when it came out, and frequently told myself that I needed to revisit Osten Ard someday, I never did, until now, some twenty-six years later. During the few months of researching northern German and Lithuanian and Slavic mythology for my own book, Tad Williams’s book kept showing up as a good example of a modern interpretation. The bittersweet guilt that I kept feeling at never having finished the series became nigh-unbearable. Once I started my project I finally broke down and ordered the first book for my Kindle, and I tell you, I am so happy I did. The things I remember… long passageways, strange yet lovable characters, dangerous magic, and especially the healthy skepticism of the main character, are all here. I’m not flying through it as fast as I did in Boot Camp, but part of the reason for that is that I’m trying to savor it a little, taste it, roll each scene around on my tongue before swallowing. I only have vague memories of the book as well, and often, I only recall something as it’s happening. (Once, I realized that a scene I’d recently thought about, involving Doctor Morgenes and Simon as Simon sets off on his travels, actually came from that book; I’d retained a stark image of the scene but could never recall the book it had come from.)

The lesson here is that it’s never too late to go back to a book you loved, and the sooner you do it, the better you’ll feel. My recommendation is to look for a book you started years ago, and give it another shot. Perhaps you stopped reading because you just couldn’t connect with the plot, or you couldn’t find the sequel when it came out, or your cat ate it. For whatever reason, pick it back up, get it out of the library, do something to get it back in front of your eyeholes, and see if the book speaks to you this time.

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The Weight of Words

Today’s the day that I like to talk about random subjects related to the world of reading, writing, critiquing, and maybe even occasionally mathing. (I’m sorry, but that should be a word.) And one thing that all of these things have in common is that they involve the use of characters, symbols, and words. While we might think of words as being ephemeral, they are in fact quite weighty.

Trust me, I just moved about fifty boxes of them.

As I sit here drinking a mug of tea, surrounded by boxes of my packed-up life, and get ready to hit the road again, I’m thinking about my life in words. Writing them, thinking in them, learning different ways to say them in many different tongues, and reading them. I wonder if I have too many of them. I wonder if I’ll ever read all the ones I want to read, and what will happen to the boxes of words I haven’t read after I die.

One thought keeps cropping up more and more, and it bothers me:  I’m less likely to take a chance on a new untried book as I get older.

This is alarming to me, since I’m a barely-published author who is trying to convince other people who haven’t heard of me to read my work. But how can I expect others to do the same when I have a phobia of not reading as many classics as I want to while I’m still on this planet? I’ve already read two books this year that I would rate as “abysmal,” and one of those was independently published. I have several long book projects to get through, too… War and Peace, The Expanse, The Wars of Light and Shadow…

I’m going to try to work more and more independent books into my reading, though, since I find the best way to confront a partially-rational phobia is to confront it head on. This worked for brussels sprouts, long distance hiking, and karaoke. (The latter caused everyone around me to develop a phobia, but that’s another story.) I’m especially looking for recommendations. If you have or know of a good indie book I need to read, tell me. But don’t just tell me “You HAVE to read this. Tell me why. Tell me what it’s like, and tell me what it did for you.

I’m still going to be selective… at about 60 books a year and probably more than halfway through my lifespan, I have to be… but I do want to widen my selection process. The good ones I’ll review here, and maybe ask others to review as well.

Time to leave. See you in Florida.

Things I learned after eleven months of not blogging

  1. Creating things is hard. Being a creative person is hard. Trying to create things as a creative person while not doing much creating is foolish, not to mention impossible and probably a violation of several laws.
  2. Books are more fun when you share them with friends. Even if your friends occasionally bend the cover back 2°  more than what is preferred by the book owner, the pleasure of having someone to share ideas and concepts with is nearly as essential to being a book reader as having access to books.
  3. Most publishers aren’t interested in stories that have been published elsewhere, even on blogs. Makes sense.
  4. I’ve been missing an essential part of my life. Granted, eleven months ago, I was holed up in a corner of the house and either reading or knitting or doing little else, and now I travel the east coast and hike and travel with my family, so my life is complete in ways I couldn’t dream of before. (And trust me, I have some pretty bizarre dreams.) Still, I’ve been missing this outlet, and I think I realized this when my Facebook posts (original and comments) started to stretch out over multiple screens. Consistently.

So, we’re back. I’ll still talk about books and my programming projects and my writing, and I’ll still welcome the readership of the blogosphere to tell me where I’m wrong and exactly how wrong I am. I’ve missed that as well.

Sunday Thoughts: Three Questions

What do cats think about when they wake up in the morning? More importantly, what do they think we think about? I have a story coming out in a few days that will offer my answer, but I really want to know what the rest of you think.

What’s the best long book you’ve read? What’s your favourite? Remembrance of Things Past is always toward the top of any list I make, though The Lord of the Rings and Ulysses are up there as well.

What’s the best short book you’ve read? Something that is too long to be a story, but short enough to be read in a day or two? I’m a fan of Passing by Nella Larsen, Call Me Joe (most likely the uncredited inspiration for Avatar) by Poul Anderson, and The Ballad of the Flexible Bullet by Stephen King. Oh, and The Willows, by Algernon Blackwood. It’s a damn creepy story in its own right, but if you’re a long distance hiker like I am, it has a few special bad places set aside just for you.

Have an awesome weekend, everyone. If you’ve done anything bookish this weekend, from reading something amazing to talking to other writers to just getting purposely lost in a library, leave a comment. I would love to hear it.

Book Beginnings Friday

Most of this morning has been taken up in writing another story, one I hope to share in at least rough form soon. Also, if you liked yesterday’s flash fiction, there will be more of those to follow. I’ve always been a fan of vignettes and short-shorts and such, whether by Jorge Luis Borges, Donald Barthelme, Robert Walser, or other such writers, though until recently, I haven’t written many. If you’re a writer, and you haven’t, try it. It’s a fun form, and it’s also challenge to create the impression and image of a complete story in only a few hundred  words. Since I’m about to take the plunge into novel country again, I feel I need the practice at making every word count.

This morning, I’m also cross-posting at Rose City Reader, where Book Beginnings Friday is hosted. The object is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you’re reading and share what it means to you, if necessary. Here’s mine, from a diptych of novellas by the excellent Michigan native Jim Harrison. (Many of you might recognise the name from Legends of the Fall. That’s a great novella collection as well, but the rest of his work is equally worth checking out.)

Clive awoke before dawn in a motel in Ypsilanti, Michigan, thinking that it was altogether possible that every woman in the world was married to the wrong man.

This is from “The Land of Unlikeness,” the first novella in The River Swimmer. I picked up the book because I liked his work, but the first sentence sucked me out of the stacks in the Atlanta-Fulton County Central Library, and into a world that was thrust into being in less than thirty words.

I’ll share my full observations of the book, and possibly a recommendation, later.

 

It’s Oh So Quiet

First, I need to apologise for the light blogging. Unless, of course, you hate the blogging, in which case, you’re welcome. Between travelling to Long Island, and the start of hiking season, and the 52 Story Project placing a well-aimed foot in my tuchus, I’ve let the daily blog chores fall by the wayside. That will stop as of today, though.

In various bits of news, the great HR Giger passed away a few days ago, after injuries sustained in a fall. Or perhaps one of his sculptures ate him. No disrespect intended, of course. Then again, any time an artist passes, I picture something like the final scene in Eternal Gaze. At least, that’s what I hope happens to me.

Tomorrow’s story is also finished, though this is more of a flash vignette and character exploration than an actual story. “Aces” (one of my recent favourites, and I don’t feel arrogant at all about saying that) and last week’s story took a lot out of me, though hopefully you can expect more in the vein of the former than the latter.

 

More on the Politics in Writing Brouhaha

Here is a rant by Sarah Hoyt about more of the culling and potential for discrimination that is taking place in the Science Fiction Writer’s Community. I’ve said here (and I’ll say many more times) that it is possible and nearly always preferable to separate a writer’s politics from his or her writing. Within reason, of course, and I’m not looking to split hairs but to have an actual discussion. I might not like the way Isaac Asimov behaved at conventions around women and specifically about how his hands would occasionally orbit their asses (or even collide), but I enjoy his non-fiction and his shorter fiction and consider them primary influences. (The Foundation trilogy is a collection of novellas and stories. It’s also slathered in awesomesauce.) I think some of the things Orson Scott Card said about homosexuals are absolutely reprehensible, but Speaker for the Dead is one of my two favourite books about xenophobia and dealing with alien species. (The Fuzzy Papers is tied with it, though Speaker does hit me in the gut a little more.) And outside of science fiction, there are a few contemporary authors who have said a few things I find a little ignorant regarding communism and socialism, and I might not ever accept a dinner invitation from them unless they’re willing to debate at length, but they’ve also written some awesome books, books I am not ashamed to recommend.

Here’s the thing:  If Mr Card wrote a book about a gay man who was half a person and couldn’t succeed at his quest or mission simply because he was in love with another man, I would have no problem not reading the book. But to the best of my knowledge, his books aren’t about that. They’re about finding one’s way, or living with guilt, or understanding something utterly alien. Ditto Asimov. His stories were about living in the future and dealing with science, not about occasional gropes and insensitive comments. Of course, such things are reprehensible, but they didn’t figure into his writing.

Since reaching adulthood (and especially after I joined the Navy) I’ve learned to look at complex things in a complex manner, and I used to think that all adults either did so or at least tried to. It’s part of rational thinking, I believe. I might totally disagree with a friend’s politics (and he with mine) but if we read the same books, like the same music, do the same kinds of things on our off-time, we can be friends. I look at writers the same way. I don’t pick up a book thinking “Here’s someone who agrees with me writing things that are agreeable and that furthermore, all right-thinking people agree with.” If the author does work in something that I disagree with, well, hopefully he or she explains why this is done. Then I will either change my opinion or add to it, and give it a little more depth. It’s a challenge to one’s thinking apparatus. An exercise. I suppose if you have no desire to ever grow as a person and never improve your thinking muscles, you might like to read pap that has been pre-approved and pre-screened to have all the right political points and opinions, written by someone who feels the same way. But then again, you probably shouldn’t be reading a traditionally challenging art form like science fiction, a genre that challenges you to think what if this happens. Or what if things were different. Not what if everything were perfectly created in my own image of perfection. If for no other reason, this will make a crappy story, but I hope everyone reading this can see that that will also make for a reader who doesn’t like to think, ever, and that’s rarely a good thing.

Enough of my own ranting. Here’s Sarah Hoyt’s article. Have an awesome night.