I Think I Detect a Trend

Finale (Hush, Hush, #4)
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, #3)
Reflected in You (Crossfire, #2)
Hidden (House of Night, #10)
Breathe (Breathe, #1)
Beautiful Redemption (Caster Chronicles, #4)
Iced: A Dani O’Malley Novel (Fever, #6)
The Twelve (The Passage, #2)
The Lost Prince (The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, #1)
Crewel (Crewel World, #1)
Son (The Giver, #4)

I copied the above list from a Goodreads.com news letter. (Yes, I’m on Goodreads. No, I don’t do much with it. It’s social media–I don’t particularly care for it. Plus, trying to come up with a more or less complete list of books I’ve read is fucking difficult because I read A LOT.)

I’m not familiar with any of these books or their authors. I don’t intend to pass judgement on the quality of the writing or any of that. I’m just faintly disturbed by the fact that all the books on this list are part of series. I have nothing against sequels and prequels and trilogies and epic fantasy sagas. I’ve read my share. What I don’t like is the idea that to be a novelist (who isn’t Neil Gaiman, Stephen King or someone like that), the easiest way to land a publishing contract is to hook both publishers and readers with a lengthy series of tales. It seems somehow dishonest. The writer of such a creature doesn’t have to stretch too far for the second, third, fourth book if he’s writing in the same fucking world. Do we know anything, really, about what kind of writer that writer really is? Try something different. Try something risky.

Of course, I don’t plan to be a published novelist. As I’ve gotten older, I find I have less patience for the minute and sometimes needless details that need to be included to make a story novel-sized. I like my stories like I like my poetry. Short, compact, economical. I’m experimenting at the moment with a fantasy story (may or may not end up in multiple books). I want it to be long enough to be considered a novel but written with the economy of a novella or short story. I’m over 20,000 words now. I don’t know how well I’ve succeeded so far. I managed to make the hero’s stay at a brothel significant, but there is a diversion that does nothing to further the plot, except that it reveals something about the hero’s character. Who knows, maybe I will bring it back around somehow. But anyway. It’s the pacing that matters. I can pace the fuck out of shorter works. Long works, not so much. It’s a test. I’ve studied hard for it. I might fail anyway, but at that point, I will gleefully chop the fuck out of what I’ve written and make something shorter of it.

The idea of a trilogy of novels is also something of a test. I know now where the first book will end and what the second book will consist of, which in turn gives me a good idea of what the third would be. But a lot has to happen between where the story is now and that imagined end in order for it to be long enough to be a novel.

At the moment, though, I’m concentrating on a trilogy of almost novellas that I’ve been working on for years. The damn thing has gone through so many changes that what I’ve got now bears little resemblance to the very first time I started slapping these characters around way back in 2005. But that’s good because that first story was pretty atrocious.

In other writing news, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I may need to start doing some kind of outlining before I start writing. I had started a short story a few weeks ago with only a vague idea of what it was. It had three or four threads that ended up weaving together into one major thread, which was as intended. The problem was that I had very little idea of what any of those threads actually were. I still don’t know. I like the overall idea and the characters enough to possibly go back to it at some point, but I have a feeling that, for various reasons, it won’t happen any time soon. Because I hate outlines of any breed. Way back when work wasn’t killing my soul on a daily basis and I wrote regularly, it wasn’t an issue. Working on something regularly let me keep that kind of shit in my head. With the sporadic way I’ve approached writing in the last year and a half, I’m finding there’s a lot less story cohering in my head, and I don’t always get the opportunity to write when it does. On top of that, I’m finally beginning to realize that I’m not exactly young any more, and the inability to write entire stories just in my head could be a result of an aging brain. That’s a lot less of a factor than the stress but still entirely possible. Either way, writing more than I do now is probably the best solution. In the meantime, outlines, guidelines, road maps. That’s all something of an experiment for me, too.


(Mental) State of the Union Address

Yesterday was such a horrific and draining day that I couldn’t stomach the thought of going to work today.  So I didn’t.  Monday night had ended in a bit of unpleasantness.  I was in a foul mood from the start yesterday, and nothing went my way at work.  Really, I’m burned out anyway.  Things haven’t improved.  Next conversion is a little more than a month away.  I know things are going to change; I don’t know how because there has been zero communication on that front.  I’m trying to recharge today.  So far that’s meant writing small bits on the mess of a SF story I started about a month ago and cleaning my office, not quite as thoroughly as needed but the floor’s clear(ish).  And washing bedding.  The smell of stale sweat is not relaxing.

Aside from my own work drama (or rather lack of work drama as there’s been no news to get dramatic about), husband’s work drama and the usual bullshit of depression, my grandfather’s birthday is Friday.  He would have been 85.  I didn’t realize it would be so hard.  I knew I would think about him.  I think about him almost every day anyway, but somehow the occasion makes it worse.  I get tears in my eyes for no real reason.  Like now for instance.  Missing someone sucks.  Especially when you can’t ever see that person again.  Maybe I need to cry.  I don’t think crying will do anything but make me feel worse.  It’s not like grief is contained in tears and will leave my body if I cry.  I don’t know.  Would I want to lose the sadness if I could?  Right now, that’s all I have left of my grandfather.  I’m keeping it.

I’m very thin skinned in general right now.  I also haven’t been writing very much and have spent way too much time thinking.  I think about work, dreams, the kind of life I was supposed to be living, the kind of life I am living, what a horrible stupid untalented human being I am, how all my stories are stupid and aren’t worth the time to write, how I should just quit anything and everything that supposedly resembles making art, how that nagging desire to go to grad school is bullshit and so on and on.  I get very fucking sick of listening to myself, and yet, there is no part of my brain that pipes up to argue or even just tell the other part to shut the hell up.

I know I need to make some effort to do something to get myself feeling better.  I know it has to come from me.  I’m just not good at digging myself out of this kind of hole.  I think next week will be better.  At least I hope it will be.

Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra

Been listening to the new Amanda Palmer album pretty much non-stop since Tuesday morning (snag it here).  On the first listen, I wasn’t terribly impressed.  Of course, I think I was too distracted (fucking work) and not listening to it the way I wanted to.  Not that I thought it was bad.  It’s not.  Not at all.  Now that I’ve lived with it longer, I do love it.  I’ll admit, having been following the whole process my expectations were high; the album simply didn’t grab hold of me and shake me like, say, Howlin Rain did on my first listen.  And you know, I’m okay with that.

I think what I really love about the album, more than the music, is the spirit.  Everything from Amanda’s successful Kickstarter to the current controversy over her not paying backing musicians (who were called to volunteer on a city-by-city basis via an email sent out last month) has been a wonderful, fascinating experiment to watch unfold.  And it still unfolds.  It’s fucking amazing.

Not being a musician, there’s not much I can say about the imbroglio there except that volunteers typically aren’t paid in ANY situation.  I was under the impression that was the whole point of volunteerism.  I do think that if the folks showing up to play with Amanda had a problem with what she’s doing, they wouldn’t be doing it.  And for fuck’s sake, the exposure alone has got to be worth it.  Steve Albini called Amanda an idiot (he’s apologized).  He knows more about the business than I do and probably more than Amanda does.  He can say whatever he wants, but I got a problem with the name calling.  And yeah, there’s a shit ton of name calling.  How churlish.  I mean, really.  This is not to say there isn’t intelligent argument about it.  There is.  Both sides have valid points, and I think the intelligent discussion between all camps will only benefit everyone in the end.

One of my favorite things about Amanda is her willingness to experiment.  The music business is changing, undeniably.  She’s not on a record label.  She brought this whole thing to life through her hard work, her risk-taking and her unflinching dedication to herself, her art and her fans.  The woman’s got balls.  I love her for that.

I saw her in concert back in 2008 (I think).  I was only casually into her music back then.  After that show, I was so much in love it damn near hurt.  I’m going to her show tonight, and I can’t wait.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been this excited for a concert (or anything; I’m not easily excited).  But again, though I love the music, it’s not the music I’m most looking forward to.  It’s the theater aspect; the performance, the set and (of course) the crowdsourced horn and string sections.  It all makes me wanna make my own art.  Or just play Beatles songs on my ukelele.  (I totally suck at it, but it’s so much fun.)

It makes me wonder why I sit here and play solitaire instead of writing.  I’ve attempted to justify playing with the whole “I need to win to get my confidence up” line.  Bullshit.  It’s not procrastination either.  It’s avoidance in a bad way.  I use the time to talk myself out of writing.  I convince myself that the things I’m working on are silly and worthless.  I’ve had bits of poetry running through my head for a couple weeks, but I’ve refused to write them down because I don’t think they’ll be any good.  Well, yeah, they probably won’t be.  So few of them are good the first time around.  It’s like the idea that a sculptor finds the shape the material wants to be and doesn’t impose his will on the material.  With writing, I have to create the block of marble before I can being to shape it into its desired form.

Which means I should never be afraid to write.  The short thing I started last weekend continues to go places I’m unsure of, but that’s the fun, isn’t it, following where it leads instead of saying to it, “What the fuck, story?  This is fucking stupid.  Why are you going there?  I should stop writing you.”  No, I shouldn’t.  I should keep going and see what’s really there.  Right?  Write!

I don’t want to be afraid of the things I love doing.  I want to embrace the whole thing, the risks, the successes, the failures, the hard work, the satisfaction, the learning.  There’s no point in it if I’m not wholly inhabiting it.  I’ve been miserable, especially lately, being half a writer.  Writing is not a hobby for me.  I’ve been treating it as if it is.

Don’t worry.  Tomorrow, I’ll go back to being the passive, sad-sack coward I’ve always been.  But just for tonight, I’m gonna grow a pair and inhabit my inner artist.

Back on the Air

At long last!  I have a real computer again.  Repairs to my previous Mac were more than the system was worth, so it had to get junked out, which means, I got a shiny new one.  It’s not the same model; I think a new model came out three months after I bought the first one, so this is one of those.  The difference?  A slightly more powerful processor and a better graphics card.  Noticeable?  Not really.

Of course, it was something of an ordeal to get the damn thing.  Geek Squad dude wasn’t entirely sure what to do (new system store-wide; everyone was confused).  Then poor computer sales kid was new.  There were only three guys in the computer area and about three times as many people needing attention.  New kid wasn’t entirely sure how to process the exchanged, and the other dudes weren’t really able to help him.  Kudos to new kid, however; he was very polite, very attentive and got shit handled eventually.  Most people are assholes in situations like that, but I can’t get upset about it.  I wasn’t in retail for long, but it was long enough.  Shit happens.  New kid has to learn somehow, and being an asshole isn’t gonna help.  So I chatted and joked with him and made sure he knew how much I appreciated his help.  Not that I wasn’t frustrated.  I was.  And hungry and tired.  I went up there right after work.  I wanted to get dinner, go home, put on pajamas and curl up somewhere, but really, taking my frustration out on a kid who’s doing his best to learn and do his job right would have only made matter worse.  There was plenty of snarling and growling once I got home.  Had to get it out somehow.

I was too tired to figure out how to restore all my stuff to the new Mac last night, but I did that this morning.  It’s all there, kinda like nothing happened.  But then …

The fucking coffee maker didn’t work this morning!

Fortunately, I still have two much older ones that still work.  I just don’t use them because there’s no need for a full pot of coffee when I’m the only drinking it.  So I did get coffee this morning, but we decided to go out and get me a new single cup coffee maker.  I needed to swing by the post office anyway to pick up my latest Amazon order–a silicon keyboard cover and a hard plastic shell.  I wasn’t terribly keen on using the new Mac without at least the keyboard cover.  Why I never picked one up before, I have no idea.

Oh wait, I do know.  Because I never try to drown my electronics.  Right?  Sure, right.

A new coffee maker was purchased and is ready for Sunday morning.

Now I return you to my regularly scheduled schedule of irregular blogging.

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

Or perhaps the sun’s jaded.  It’s been glaring down at these same nine (ten? nine? what’s a planet anyway?) hunks of rock and balls of gas for how long now?  I mean, how could the sun not lose its childlike sense of wonder after billions of years of nothing interesting happening?  At first, I’m sure it was awesome.  Planets forming!  Explosions!  Collisions! All kinds of spacy treachery!  Fucking amazing!  But then … ho hum.  Everything settles into dull status quo, and the only drama comes from a taxonomy glitch.  No wonder the sun can’t be bothered to behave the way the eleven year solar cycle says it should.  Fuck that.  There must be something better to do than sit here and bust off CMEs and shit.

But there really isn’t.  The circle of life is just that — a circle.  Let’s get zen for a second and say “dude, a circle, the awesome and beautiful cycle of everything, nothing every really ends, it just keeps going round and round like a record baby right round right round.”  Um, no.

There’s nothing in this whole fucking universe more tragically boring than a circle.

I live in a circle.

I fucking suck at geometry.

There is some kind of nebulous something (masks?  puppets?  cabaret?  ghosts?) attempting to congeal into story/poetry.  Another project similar to A Walking Tour of Pale (which I need to get back to), but more … I don’t know.  Maybe less whatever I thought that more was supposed to be.  Whatever it is, I prefer to blame a fictional character.  (At which Eliot reminds me that I made him up, so whatever comes out of his head comes out of mine.)

I’ve written very little the last two or three days.  I’m purging the poisons.

On the plus side, I do have ideas, inspiration, etc.  This is a vast improvement from where I was even a month ago.

Still, the sun spins in its place, the planets in theirs and play ring around the sun.  Everything rotates and rotates.  Step outside the circle and play.

(PS: I am sober.)


Monthly Brain Dump?

So blogging on a weekly basis didn’t work out.  I kinda knew that would happen.  I continue to be ground into dust by work and distracted by Diablo III.

The Savannah trip was great.  I really did mean to do a whole big blog about it, but I struggled to get back into the routine of work and just couldn’t bring myself to write anything.  It’s a beautiful city.  I’d move there in a heartbeat.

Yesterday was a meat grinder.  I probably didn’t get as much work done as I should have, but I’m okay with that.  I did what I could.  I felt bad for not staying late.  No worries, it lasted about two seconds, and then I happy to be out in the heat.

Yes, the amazing heat.  When I left the building for lunch at 1:30, it was 103.  Not accounting for the heat index.  Just raw heat.  I expected to swim down the block, but it was actually not that humid and fairly breezy.  It felt wonderful.  I wouldn’t want to exert myself out in it, but just to stand there for a while or sit in the shade was really nice.  It tried to storm last night.  The wind got up, and the power tried to go out a couple times close to midnight.  Today is going to be much the same.  I plan on leaving the house here at some point, but I’m not going to be playing around outside.  I like the heat, but I’m not stupid.

I’m still not writing much.  Again, letting work and video games take priority.  I wasn’t helped much yesterday by the announcement of the results of a poetry contest I entered back in April.  One contest means nothing, though, and honestly, I don’t know if what I sent in was my best work.  Even so, the winning poems aren’t posted, so I can’t compare.  There are better writers than me, and the winners most likely are better.  So what?  But for a moment or so, I wondered why I’ve been wasting my time trying to be a writer.  Existential crisis of the week.  Should I write strictly as a hobby?  Should I bother writing at all?  Should I put down the pen for good and resign myself to a life of working and playing games on my computer?  I’d read a lot more if I did.  For another moment, I took the loss (is it a loss, really?) as impetus to rededicate myself to writing, including the submitting things to be published part of writing.  That didn’t last either.  I’m right back where I started before I entered the contest.  Which is sinking in the quicksand of inertia.

Fuck inertia.  I’m going to go do something I’ve thought about for a couple years now and have planned and put off for a month or so.

Weekly Dump Vol. 3

At least since I said I was going to start doing this weekly again.  And at least I think it’s number 3.  Anyway.

My brain has been on vacation for the last week or so.  We actually leave tomorrow.  I’ve wanted to go to Savannah forever.  The topic of vacation plans came up some months ago over wine and dinner with friends, and Savannah came up, and that was that.  I’ve been to Atlanta, although neither time I was there did I do much exploring of the city, but it’s a place that has a certain resonance for me.  Savannah has that, too, even though I haven’t been there, sort of like New Orleans or Seattle.  Needless to say, I’m ready to go RIGHT NOW.

What’s in Savannah?  Don’t know!  That’s half the fun.  We’ll be blocks from the river and twenty minutes from the ocean, in the historic district with old graveyards nearby.  Honestly, that’s about all I need.

There will be lots of walking, lots of picture taking, lots of exploring.  I’ll have my laptop with me, so maybe I’ll do some travel blogs like I did when I was in Winston-Salem.  We’ll see.

I’ve been writing just a bit more than in past months.  I’ve got the reworked Dead Boys series going.  Haven’t looked at that one in a while, but it’s there.  Not much poetry lately, but that’s okay.  Mostly it’s been this fantasy thing that wants to be a trilogy.  I’m fighting it hard right now, though.  I’m absolutely in love with the character, so that’s not the issue.

Fantasy–high fantasy–is the issue.  I don’t want to write Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones or whatever.  Not even the Dark Tower.  Granted, I haven’t read any of Game of Thrones yet, but I have seen the first few episodes of the HBO series, so I have a good handle on what it’s all about.  I sort of want to write anti-fantasy.  The main character is an anti-hero (do I write any other kind?), so why not anti- the whole fucking thing?  I don’t want to write something that would cause filmmakers to make all the characters have British accents.  I mean, really.  Why is that accent, that speech pattern, that formality, associated with high fantasy?  Of course, this being a world that isn’t ours, I won’t be using modern slang, but language is something I’ll be paying pretty close attention to.  I’m not going to let any character fall into the kind of speech, where there are no contractions or cursing.  I’m also looking to do something different with magic in this world.  Still working that out, but I have ideas.

I’m starting out with something fairly cliche.  Main character’s family is killed by monsters so he sets out to kill all the monsters but there are Other Things Going On.  In particular, I want to avoid the main character being something special, more than human or preternaturally skilled.  He’s good at hunting and killing monsters, but he’s not some powerful psychic/half-breed/angel-demon whatever.  He’s a man who’s really, really fucking pissed off.  He wants to avenge his murdered family, and he does not give a fuck about doing the right thing.  He isn’t tasked with some world saving mission.  For him, it’s kill, kill, kill, kill and kill some more.  His goal?  Genocide.  Of course, it’s not going to work out to his expectations.  Wouldn’t be much of a story if it that’s all there was to it.

So.  Cliche beginning, but where do I go from there to keep this from turning into high fantasy just like every other high fantasy novel/series in existence?  Guess we’ll find out.  We’ll also be finding out if I still have the patience to write a novel.  Maybe if I write a lot of it while I’m drunk and can ramble on without the inner editor bitching about the bits that are unnecessary.  I’ve got some 3000 words so far.

I’m also tired of excuses.  Not just the excuses I give myself about why I don’t write or read or take photos as much as I want to.  Excuses in general.  Because I figured something out.  Life has no grand meaning, no grand design.  Life is about tedium.  Either overcoming tedium or giving into it.  I’m not down with giving into the tedium, which means I don’t want the excuses for maintaining the tedium.  Okay sure, we all got bills to pay and so on, but after that?  What’s my excuse for not going to the museum every weekend or finding a state park to walk around in or submitting poems to as many places as I can?  Too drained from work?  Fuck it!  It takes a CLICK to submit a poem to a zine.  If I can sit here and play Diablo 3 all fucking night, I can do that.  And why am I not doing that right now?  Because I’m watching hockey and getting ready to run away for a whole week.  But after that?

Yeah right.  I say shit like that all the fucking time.  If I were serious about it, I wouldn’t have to write blogs like this all the time.

The Weekly Dump, 5/13/12 Edition

I played hooky from work on Friday.  I had no choice.  I woke up early, laid there thinking about how much I didn’t want to go to work, and when I finally got out of bed, I went right to my computer to email my boss that I wouldn’t be in.  Sorry, boss.  I needed that.  This week, for some reason, was pushing me towards burn out.  I spent a lot of time working on tedious reports.  That made me cranky.  Friday would have been more of the same.  Not so much the tedious reports as research, which this week anyway, leads to people arguing with what I tell them and acting like I have no fucking clue what I’m talking about.  I really, really didn’t need any of that.

I thought hard about getting out of the house, but the prospect of putting on real clothes didn’t appeal to me.  So I cranked up my tunes and wrote.  I finished a short story of just over 3,000 words.  Needs some editing and more plotting.  It’s the first of a series I’ve had in mind for years now but completely redone.  Because I love Jack Runner so much, I really wanted to bring him back from the dead at some point before I realized that I was done with him and needed to leave him where he was.  Dead.  In whatever afterlife or lack thereof he could find.  I really don’t want to, or need to, drag him out of that.  The new series picks up 110 years after Jack’s death.  The Agency’s gone.  The monsters are out of the closet.  But then came something even worse.  The new series contains seeds of the old (yes, someone thinks it’s a good idea to try to resurrect Jack; others disagree.) and bits of a story that have been kicking around for several months now, alluded to in the jailbreak post.  I’ve snagged some random characters that I never did anything with and dropped them into the war zone.  I don’t think this first story is good right now, but it’s done.  It’s on paper.  It’s a lot of info dump right now, but that’s for my benefit mostly.  Next step is turning it into a real story.

I started on a series of poems about a week ago and haven’t gone back to it.  I’ve tried to convince myself to enter one of two (or both) chapbook contests with deadlines at the end of May.  I look through the poems I have, and I think they’re awful.  Maybe they are.  Maybe they aren’t.  Reading them killed any thoughts I had of calling myself a poet, even as a joke.  Which isn’t fair to the poems, really.  It’s not their fault.  I think I need to wait, find other contests, start submitting again like I wanted to months ago.   I don’t know.

Yesterday was shopping day.  Clothes shopping.  Didn’t get much, but that’s fine.  I still need to update my wardrobe.  Nothing makes me more uncomfortable about my gender than clothes shopping.  Women’s “fashion” is just plain ugly to me.  I don’t know why women’s clothes have to be pigeon holed into an ideal of femininity that’s not that attractive.  I can’t be the only female looking for something a littler plainer and more professional.  On the other hand, there are probably men who wouldn’t mind a little more flair in their clothing, gender identity and/or sexual orientation aside.  I’m probably shopping at the wrong place, but that’s what I’ve got.

Also yesterday, I got a Nook.  This will not stop me from buying physical books.  There are several on my radar that I didn’t find digital versions of.  It will, however, make it much easier for me to make sure I always have something to read.  None of this oh shit need books must go to library but it’s cold and people will be there and pajamas are way better than real clothes.  I do very much like the Nook.  Haven’t really tapped into everything it’ll do yet, but it’s mostly for books anyway.  Maybe a game or two.  I did pop Words with Friends on it.  I suck at Scrabble, though.

As far as games go, Diablo III comes out Tuesday.  I’ll get it eventually.  I’m going to make a barbarian named Knuucklehead (two Us in hommage to my DII barbarian, Huung).  I’m also going to roll a demon hunter because, yeah, dark bad ass killing machine?  Yes, please.  I don’t think I’ll have much interest in Words with Friends after that.

I suppose I should go do real life stuff today.  Not that I have any interest in yard work at the moment.  Don’t wanna get fussed at for not doing anything useful today.