Category Archives: Reading

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.