Wednesday, April 29, 2009

from three different contexts of today

and cranberries.

Monday, April 27, 2009

soundings and love

Tonight, I was tickled all sorts of pink to attend the unveiling of this year's 'Soundings' at OC. For the uninitiated, 'Soundings' is a collection of poetry, prose, and art by OC students, profs, and alumni, and it comes out every spring.

Ten years ago, I was editor of Soundings. For the record, I hadn't the faintest clue what I was doing, and I loved every single mind-boggling moment of it. ;o)

Over the years, I've kept up with Soundings. I have copies of every issue since 1996, with the exception of 2007, which I plan to get my grubby hands on, oh, maybe tomorrow. Every year, my level of thrilledness over Soundings goes up, because it just gets better and better--what with the more user-friendly budget and the improvements in technology, what ho. Also, alumni get to submit pieces, as well, so I've had poems in several issues since I graduated.

When I think about the fact that I still get to be part of Soundings, I get all warm-fuzzy-fangirlish inside. In fact, I'm so pleased, I could do the potato wave right here.

Some people might think this is weird.

I don't care.

Tonight, at the unveiling of Soundings 2009, I got to stand in a room with more than 50 (closer to 100?) writers and artists. Did you read that? I got to hang out with multiple dozens of writers and artists. People who are like me. Do you comprehend how rare and flabbergastingly cool that is?

Creatives love each other by rote. It's built into us. We gravitate toward each other. We are each other's black holes--in a totally non-matter-compacting way, I mean. And in a way that doesn't happen in other areas of life. We resonate with each other. We grok, if you want to go that far. ;o)

Also, we swing each other's verge.

I am a bunny, and you guys are my Energizers. Watch me go. ;o)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

now that i know...

I once thought, in an intellectual way, that I was hungry.

I ate the food laid out before me, looked around in my immediate area for more, and thought I was satisfied. I thought that my hunger was small, and I thought that what was within reach would sate me.

Then life happened.

And now I know that I am ravenous. I have always been ravenous. And what I thought was satisfying...does not even begin to fill up my empty spaces.

I now know, in a deep, internal, visceral way, that I am starving. How I hungered before is nothing compared to the hunger I feel now.

Now that I begin to know how hungry I am, I want more.

And the beginning of knowledge only makes the hunger grow.

God, give me more.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

it's the little things, y'know?

After an emotionally draining Wednesday and a physically over-did-it Thursday, I am ending today on a good note:

I just read that Sting is recording a new album. This pleases me immensely.

I also read that J.D. Fortune is no longer singing with INXS. This pleases me not at all.

However, the news of a new Sting album buoys me enough to cancel out the disappointment over INXS.

Little things. Bright spots. They make me feel better, no matter their source.

Also, I like them. ;o)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

gogg-gogg-goggle at this

"Officials have agreed to correct spelling errors in road signs pointing to a central Massachusetts lake with a 45-letter name. Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster has one of the world's longest place names. It's been spelled many different ways over the years. Some locals have given up and simply call it Lake Webster."

Full article here. This really swings my verge. ;o)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

growing up in bowel town: random memory

I know I said in my last post that I was going to blog about a certain adventure I had that is now 12 days in the past, but I haven't blogged about it yet, so now I'm going to write about something else instead. Namely, this:

I grew up in the city of Darmstadt, which literally translates into "Bowel City," which I choose to render as "Bowel Town" because it sounds funnier. My first home in Darmstadt was an apartment building at Roßdörferstraße 55 (which loosely translates to "Horse-Village Street"--I swear I am not making this up). We lived for eight years in a two-bedroom apartment on what Americans would call the third floor but Germans call the second.

The building's first floor housed a "Konditorei," which I guess would be a pastry shop or confectioner's shop to those of the English-speaking persuasion. The presence of said pastry shop resulted in the most amazing scents that drifted daily up the stairwell and into all the apartments, making everyone in the building crave Butterhörnchen a whole lot more often than fortnightly, lemme tell ya.

The baker's names was Herr Gibis, and before I started 1st grade, he took to wife a younger woman with two children. Their names were Marcus and Sylvie. Marcus was my age, and Sylvie was a year younger, and they lived with Herr and Frau Gibis in the only apartment on the first floor, behind the pastry shop.

Marcus and Sylvie and I became fast and great friends. I could tell oodles of stories of our many outside adventures, including the ones about how Marcus chased me and his sister with daddy longlegs. But that is another story and shall be told another time.

The story on my mind right now is The One Where We Got Into The Bug Spray. You see, adjacent to the back of our apartment complex and beyond a low chainlink fence brooded this squat, square, white building with a fire escape. (The fire escape figures into yet another tale, as does the chainlink fence, but again, that is neither here nor there right now.) In this squat, square, white building lived an old woman. I suppose now that she must not have been very old at all--probably between 40 and 50 years of age--but to us children (we were now 10, 10, and 9, respectively), she seemed ancient. I only ever caught a couple of glimpses of her, and my only memory of her is long, dark hair in a bun, and shoulders wrapped in a fringed shawl. But Marcus and Sylvie must have seen her more often than I did, because they said her name was Maria and she didn't like children.

It quite possible that Marcus and Sylvie were making this up.

Anyway, we were fascinated and terrified. Maria didn't like children; ergo, we
qualified as unlikeable. There was a chainlink fence--obviously, a barrier we were not meant to cross. Mystery, darkness, and danger lurked at this far end of the apartment complex. The lure of the squat, square, white building was irresistible.

I don't know where Sylvie was on that fateful day. I don't remember that she was with us when Marcus and I climbed over the chainlink fence, our hearts thudding wildly in our small chests, our eyes darting over our shoulders again and again in case A Parent should suddenly appear. But, undaunted by fear or threat of parental disapproval, Marcus and I scaled the fence (it was all of four feet high) and found ourselves on terra incognita: Maria's backyard.

Eerie light filtered down through leaves overhead. An unnatural hush descended, as though even the birds were shocked into silence by our audacity. We were shocked into silence by our audacity. The air felt heavy.

The shed beckoned.

It was squat, square, and wooden, with a tin roof and all sorts of gardening implements leaning against its rickety frame. My memories progress as though I'm flipping through photographs, and the next picture shows Marcus and me, not entering the shed, but inside the shed, and Marcus is holding a sort of pressurized pump can, and we're deep in the fantasy of marauders surrounding us, barring our escape, shouting for us to give up and come out, there's nowhere left to run, and Marcus and I are looking at each other with huge, excited eyes, and we know that this moment is The Grandest Adventure EVER.

Meanwhile, the marauders were advancing. They were at the door. They were breaking in. We defended ourselves with the only weapons available: magic sleep-dust spray guns--what else?

Of course, when we got back to our side of the backyard universe (not having had the guts to approach the squat, square, white building proper, defeated marauders notwithstanding), the fantasy quickly broke into smithereens when The Parents smelled not magic sleep-dust on our clothes but insecticide, with which we had sprayed not only the imaginary marauders, but also each other, and generously. Because, as anyone with half a brain can tell you, magic sleep-dust magically turns into a restorative and palliative powder when used on a friend instead of against a slavering, primitive marauder.

I don't remember what happened to Marcus, but I got a spanking and an afternoon in the bathtub, being scrubbed down with great vigor by my mother, who was not impressed.

That was our first adventure centered around Maria's squat, square, white house...but it was not to be our last.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

third draft of novel finished

Title is self-explanatory. ;o) Here are some Third Draft Stats for your perusing pleasure:

Number of Chapters: 35

Pages: 736

Word Count: ca. 220000 (Yeah, you're seeing it right: 220k. Uffda.)

Words per Chapter: ca. 6286

Pages per Chapter: ca. 21

Deaths of Named Characters: 8

Romantic Liaisons: 5

Weddings: 1

Wars: 1

Skirmishes: 6

Magical Mishaps: 5

Magical Creature Moments: 7

Possessions by Unknown Forces: 9

Major Epiphanies: 4

Characters' Breaks with Reality: 9

Writer's Breaks with Reality: continual

Writer's Cups of Coffee: 53.5

Writer's Staring Moments: 17.3

Writer's Why-Am-I-Doing-This Moments: 3.7

Seriously, though...I am feeling excited/relieved/frustrated about completing the third draft. Excited/relieved, because this means I'm one step closer to having the book ready for an agent. Frustrated, because I still have a lot of steps to go.

About 75000 steps, to be inexact.

That word count has got to come down, and frankly, I'm not sure how I'm going to do it.

I didn't set out to write an epic. But the book fits the definition, and I'm not sure how that happened.

Okay, I lie. I know exactly how it happened. I kept putting words after other words, adding commas, dashes, and quotation marks, and voy-o-lay: I got me an epic fantasy novel.

My task now is to un-epicize the monster.

Why, you ask, is this necessary? Well, the equation is simple: BigBook + NewWriter = HighCostAndNoGuaranteeOfRecoup. Epics are expensive to publish, and if a publisher is gonna publish an epic, then said publisher wants to be sure that said epic is going to bring in enough money. And no one can guarantee that a new author is going to generate that kind of revenue.

So I'm playing with a few options right now:

I can do a bit more polishing but leave the book mostly as-is, try submitting it, and see what happens (which, more than likely, will be a whole lotta nothin').

I can go back to cutting and slicing--but I must do so with care, or I risk cutting and slicing stuff that the reader *needs* in order for the story to make sense.

Or...I can do some more polishing and then try to split the book in half. I.e. pitch the book as a two-parter and see if anyone is interested.

This third idea just occurred to me today, so I have done no market research on it whatsoever. I'm a bit leery of the idea, because (a) it's very different from anything I've ever imagined concerning this book and the universe it's set in, and (b) it almost feels like the lazy way out of not having to cut and slice as radically as I know I need to.

Since (b) has occurred to me, I'm wondering if it might not be the truth.

I'm gonna let this sit for a few days. Tomorrow, I'll be blogging about my writing-related adventure of last week, so stay tuned, if you will. Or even if you won't--I'm gonna do it anyway. ;o)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

book comments 15

"Dance of Death" by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
--murder, mystery, intrigue, an FBI agent and his sociopathic brother...*lots* of potential here
--I don't need to know the five-page details of how an archaeological Mayan museum exhibit is put together. *yawn*
--lots of "They did this, and then they felt that, and we have to tell you, the reader, directly, because you, the reader, apparently aren't smart enough to figure it out yourself."
--excellent character development of a few characters, terrible under-development of others
I was really geared up to enjoy this story, but the authors lost me in over-explanation and high-societal ramblings.
--don't recommend

"The Dark Tower, and Other Stories" by C.S. Lewis
a collection of Lewis's short fiction

--published posthumously
--totally fascinating
--includes two stories that are incomplete, because Lewis died before finishing them
One of these, "The Dark Tower," relates to Robert Barrett Browning's epic poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"--as does Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series. I am thrilled and intrigued with the connections, here.
The other incomplete story picks up the story of Menelaus and Helen after the Trojan War. Brilliant.
--amazing writing, of course--it's Lewis
--highly recommend

"The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. LeGuin
--basically a first-contact story between the established, intergalactic (?) human society and a less advanced human society on a new planet
--explores oodles of themes: racism, prejudice, sexuality, government, utopianism, light-speed travel and its effects...
--classic sci-fi
I had to read several chapters before I could get into the story, and I almost put it down before the pace picked up a little. It just took too long to get to the central conflict. But I'm glad I stuck with it--it turned out to be a great adventure story with plenty of significant, make-you-think moments.
--one of LeGuin's earlier works, and it's interesting to compare this style to some of her later stuff (i.e. "The Lathe of Heaven")
--recommend, but only to die-hard sci-fi fans

"Variable Star" by Spider Robinson and Robert Heinlein
--story of a broken-hearted young man who spontaneously decides to get on a colony ship that won't reach its destination for 20 years (80 years on Earth)
This one is particularly fascinating to Heinlein and/or Robinson fans, because Robinson wrote it after Heinlein died, based on detailed notes that Heinlein took in the 1950s.
--great plot, great characters, typical Heinlein brilliance coupled with Robinson's rollicking style and knack for punniness
--highly recommend to sci-fi fans

"Duma Key" by Stephen King
Okay,before I say anything about this book, I'd like to mention this: I swore off King's novels several years ago--and part of the reason I did this is that he is such a brilliant writer. Whatever you think of him morally or genre-ly, he is a master of the craft--I would venture to say one of the top five masters of our time. I stopped reading his books because they were *too good*--too good at putting mental pictures in my head that I did not want in my head. (FYI, "Dreamcatcher" was the last straw for me, but that is another story and shall be told another time.)

Two stories got me started on King again: his "Dark Tower" series and "Lisey's Story." I read "The Dark Tower" for more reasons than I want to get into now. I read "Lisey's Story" because it's about a woman whose deceased husband is a writer--and everything in the novel relates to his being a writer. For obvious reasons, that appeals to me. A master of writing, writing about a writer and where story ideas really come from--"the pool where we all go down to drink." There's a lot in "Lisey's Story" about a collective source for creativity and how we can all tap into it--and as a writer and artist--and as a Christian--I have a very strong belief in that concept.

Anyway, the point is this: Like "Lisey's Story" and "Dark Tower," "Duma Key" has brought me back to reading King...because "Duma Key" is about an artist.

"Duma Key" by Stephen King
--story of a guy who loses an arm and, in recovery, discovers a great talent for drawing and painting
--themes of loss, redemption, the power of imagination, memory, the persistence of evil, the possibility of overcoming evil if we are courageous, sacrifice, using our powers for good...
Also, there are giant frogs.
--recommend, but only to those not faint of heart or will or stomach

2009 Book Count To-Date: 17

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

dream #75, revisited

As I herumgestöbert in my blog with its new template, I came across something that made me laugh. Posted on December 27, 2005, "dream #75" was one of the dreams I translated via the online translator, with what were, to me, hilarious results.

My favorite part is that the spider "would not become squoosh." I really, really hate it when spiders--and/or ticks--refuse to become squoosh.

So once again, just for fun, here is "dream #75" in all its weirdly translated glory:

dream #75
recorded June 27, 2005

For your reading pleasure I give you once again peeps in the foreign world of dreams and on-line translators. Find below please the 75-th dream which I registered in my dream magazine first on English then in German. The translations into both languages are complaisance of that. Enjoy!

Back Pain and Hallucinations

Last night I dreamed that a spider on my left arm crept. I tried to squoosh, but it would not become squoosh. When I understood that it was not about to die, I looked at it closer and understood that it was a tick! I continued to hit my arm, to smoosh the tick trying, but it would also not become smoosh. My only execution was to do my arm pain. So, in the end, I smooshed it between my thumbnails.

I thought that I was now o.k., but then I saw that there was a bump behind my left hand. I bumped after the bump, and something moved in it. I started being earned gross, but I seized a knife and began to cut in the skin at the back of my hand. The skin was really thick and meaty: I did not cut deeply enough even to hit bone, but I cut open 1 inch thick fabric from the back of my hand. I unloaded the fabric on the table. Blood and flaps of the meat were everywhere. I saw, in the end, that the moving thing was a spider in my hand. His legs were long and thin, and when I drew them, the spider glided directly from the back of my hand. This was still alive.

Me turned Ed and to speak me tried ones, but nothing would come out. I could not believe that I had cut just in my hand like this, and that a spider had lived under my skin. Ed it was earned just absolutely gross. The spider did weak, twitching movements on the table. Then there ended the dream.

When I woke, my whole left arm was a sore place, from my finger points the whole way in my shoulder and highly back. I think that I slept wrong on my left side, and my brain translated pain into the weird spider and discs of sharp images. YUCK!

chocolate and roses out, dreamy-ethereal-silhouetty stuff in

For Facebookers: Check out my new blog template here.

As those of you who voted can see, I didn't go with the template most of you picked. I can't even remember now which one that was, and though I could go back and check, I'm not going to do so because it's 4:30 in the morning, I am unwillingly awake, and checking would require too much effort at this point.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who voted, and I hope you're not terribly disappointed. However, in spite of the fact that I requested your votes, this is not a democracy, and as Grand Poobah and Amazon Queen of my blog, I reserve every right to veto. ;o)

So, enjoy the new blog look. I do.

Now, all I need is a new profile pic...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

this will probably interest only other writers. and maybe those who obsess over the criminal justice system.

So, in case I've never mentioned it here: There is a stupendous organization called Writer Beware!, whose gurus make it their business to seek out despicable, writer-scamming scum-vermin and hunt down said scum-vermin and use super-sonic ray guns to blast said scum-vermin to smithereens, thereby preserving the sanity and pocketbooks of hapless writers all over the galaxy.

I might be exaggerating a teense.

But just a teense.

Writer Beware! really does provide an incredibly helpful and vital-to-the-writing-life service. If you are thinking of publishing a book, you need to do some research within the WB! blog, especially concerning vanity publishers, POD services, and scam artists posing as agents. (Another good site for such research is Preditors & Editors, which reminds me that I need to update my links list, which in turn reminds me that I need to change my blog template.)

Anyway, Writer Beware! has released a wonderful tidbit of news that has caused my heart to leap with joy like a fleet-footed fawn tasting the first fresh airs of robust spring. You can read this new here if you wish, but I shall graciously extend it to you in the following nutshell:

There's gonna be a special division in the FBI for going after the despicable, writer-scamming scum-vermin.

That's right. Writer Beware! is getting federal help. From the F. B. I. Which is so way awesomely cool, I could just do the potato wave right here.

Watch out, you despicable, writer-scamming scum-vermin, you. You're about to get super-sonic-ray-gun-blasted.