Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Whirling Red Vortex...of DOOM!!!

There is a boy.  He is twelve years old, maybe thirteen.  He is shaking and pale, gasping open-mouthed for air.  He has been running but is stopped now.  Surely his side aches.  His under-arms are sweaty and his shirt sticks to him.  Behind him, something is coming.  He is afraid but there is nowhere left to run.  In front of him, there is darkness.  And, in the darkness, a great red portal opens.  

This is not my story.  Pieces of it belong to me, sticky patches of my own imagination cobbled together with the scattered detritus of childhood's memory.  All that remains clear from the original work is the vortex and the boy.  And those only in their roughest sketch.  A boy.  I have made him twelve years old, have put fear into his lungs, a stitch in his side.  In front of him, there is a whirling red vortex.  I have made it a portal.  I have painted the air around it dark.  I did this.  

Because the author of the story never did.  

My brother wrote that story, that piece of a story, when he was a child.  I don't remember anything about it other than the fact that there was a boy and a whirling red vortex.  But I was riveted.  I wanted to know what the vortex was!  I wanted to know what was on the other side!  For, in my head, I knew it had to be a portal!  I knew the boy must jump!  I knew that, on the other side of that portal, the real adventure would begin.

My brother never finished that story.  I mentioned it to him once in later years.  He didn't remember it.

I have often wondered about the people who fall away from writing.  My brother wrote stories as a kid, mostly for classroom assignments, occasionally a comic strip for his own amusement.  And then he didn't.  He put it away like a toy he'd outgrown, like my Barbie Dolls or his GI Joe.  

And the only one who noticed was me.

There are others, friends and acquaintances through the years whose dedication to the task seemed to eclipse my own.  I would watch in envy as their pages piled high, as novels shaped themselves with seeming ease under their hands.  I have read through entire manuscripts, baby novels just beginning to find shape.  And I have seen their parents walk away, unperturbed by the unfinished thought, the shaky plotline, the fact of its existence as a complete and unrealized unpublished piece of art.

And I don't understand it.  I have stacks of unfinished art-pieces.  And stories are art.  I have stack upon stack, and a thousand more in my head.  I cannot imagine walking away from any of them, washing my hands, saying I'm done.

I cannot imagine.

I don't mean to cast judgment.  In a weird way, I think walking away might be a sign of a healthier mind, less obsessive, less wont to flights of fancy.  My brother left his stories in childhood.  Perhaps those others, having put their stories to paper, were simply better able to put those stories aside, move on to something less uncertain, to a family or a career or a simple satisfaction in being done.

But me?  I want to see what's waiting on the other side of the portal.

What about you?  What keeps you going?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Extra! Extra! Girl abandons blog in favor of sleep?

This may be a new record for me.  Up until now, I've been...mostly...on time with my blog entries.  I may have slid past the midnight demarcation into the wee hours of a Thursday or the glimmerings of a Sunday morning, edging past the civilized bed-time hours on some sort of masochistic crusade to make sure that end of the candlestick was well and truly burned.  But I got them in before bed, before my Wednesday ended, before my Saturday was done.  A small distinction but one I cling to.  This entry?  Is late.  Even by my qualified standards of time management.

And what was I doing on Wednesday night?  What tempted me from keyboard?  What prompted me to put down my book, to turn away from the TV?  Honest truth?  I was sleeping.  The book I was then engrossed in, The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman had been getting really good and I'd been looking forward to an evening in its pages.  Instead, it sat, splayed open print-side down on the arm-rest of my arm-chair.   I don't think I managed a paragraph.  The Dateline I'd recorded?  Played through unattended, dire warnings unheard and unlamented.  My blog?  Was left blank, barely even a glimmer in my head before sleep eradicated it entire.  I abdicated my Wednesday night in favor of a rumpled set of sheets and the whir of my ceiling fan.

Yes, I slept through that entire Wednesday evening, through the whole of that Wednesday night and woke eerily refreshed at a rough half past 5 on a Thursday morning.  I saw WOK Jeff's daily post go up.  I never see it in real time.  I was up before the sun, before that 6:30 deadline which is the make or break point as far as squeezing in a shower and getting to work on time.  I'll confess, I will occasionally even push that deadline to 6:32, sometimes 6:33, having perfected the scrub 'n' go technique required of all night owls who work the 7am shift.  Before you ask, I live approximately 2 to 5 minutes away from work depending on traffic.  And I have no compunctions about wet hair.  They pay me to work, not to coiffe.  My hair's awful anyway, so why bother?

But, on Thursday, awake before the alarm, awake before the sun, awake maybe before our own WOK Jeff?  I felt good.  I had time for a long shower, a weekend shower, a stand under the hot spray eyes-shut shower.  I had time to do my hair.  Still awful, but better than the wet-head look.  Seriously, it's a style?  I had time to read some blogs!  I wasn't just squeezing them in, I was luxuriating.  I had time to en-not sure I can get this word out-en...I had time to enj-enjoy the morning?

You're shaking your head now.  Is this girl serious?  It's just a morning!  An extra hour!  Phah!

But it's not about the hour; it's about the sleep!

I enjoyed the day.

Every minute.

Irritants from the day before became bemusements.  I had energy!  I sailed through the work day.

And it made me think.

I talk myself into late nights.  I do.  I have so many things I want to do, books I want to read, shows I want to watch, novels I want to write.  Blogs.  More than that though, I like late nights.  I like the quiet, the dark, like the long low sound of the train's whistle, the whist of its stop.  I like the stars (when I can see them), the subtle easing of the heat in the summer, the chill in the winter, the way my blankets become a cocoon, my chair a nest as I drift through late-night viewings of my favorite shows (can we say Netflix?).  I like the way words will sometimes work for me, the way my fingers find them on the keys without my knowing precisely what to say.  I like the night.

But maybe, just maybe, I like sleep more.


Thoughts to think on.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Eighth Day of Blogging...for WOK anyway

It sounds like some screwed up Christmas Carol, doesn't it?  On the 8th day of blogging, my blogger gave to meeeee...yet more random musings from her mind...

Yes, yes, I know.  It's too soon to start referencing Christmas.  Or late.  But I guess I have Christmas on the brain. 

I blame the younger niece.  She made me watch Christmas cartoons the other night.  And, by made, I mean that - after sitting through the cheesy must-have-been-made-for-TV kids' movie about a ghost cat and after vetoing several other obviously-not-meant-for-children horror movies, I was primed and ready to allow her to pick out anything if it was remotely age-appropriate and shorter than a movie.  And, how do you object to Christmas cartoons?  They are obviously kid-friendly, short, and who wants to be grinch enough to veto a kid's fifth attempt at a pick on the grounds of "But it's...May?"   

She is a genius and I have little doubt she will one day rule the world, pulling strings from behind her cupcake-print curtains.


All that aside, I have been sitting here struggling for some blogger bit of interest.  But my brain is flittering, random thoughts flickering to life only to be shoved aside by bolder and brighter ideas which are then extinguished by the necessity of the day. 

But today, we talk about Unholy Hunger at WOK.  So there's something.


I did finish Unholy Hunger by Heather James.  In the end, I thought the voice of the piece was good and the story entertaining.  If I'm honest, I had some struggles with the character motivations, specifically our protagonist.  I found some of her thought processes implausible given her background and the type of person we are told she is in the beginning.  Yes, I know, the act which incites her on this vengeance-quest is horrific and life-altering but I'm not sure I buy her seeming ignorance of how the law works.  She's a lawyer but she pretends absolutely no understanding of the system?  I am not a lawyer, civil or criminal, and I know the rudimentary basics.  And, whether one agrees or disagrees with that system, this character displays an ignorance that presses the bounds of plausibility.

She is consumed by anger at the cops' failure to act, but fails to acknowledge any understanding of why they can't act and why they can't act immediately.  I think we needed a slower build here with some acknowledgement from the protagonist as to the system.  I can understand anger.  Of course there's anger.  In fact, the author had a wonderful opportunity here to explore that anger from the perspective of someone who would have or should have a greater understanding of the system, watching as the system which she knows is flawed fails her?  And, had we been allowed to watch that anger fester and grow under the combined onslaught of the death, the glacial speed of the investigation and the faults of the system instead of the anger being a built-in and static setting for this character from day one, I think I could have sunk into the story more and I think it could have been a better story. 

Still, it was entertaining.  And I appreciated several of the plot twists.  Hopefully, if you haven't read the book, you're not reading this because this may very well spoil you.  But I appreciated the surprise as to the responsible party.  I honestly didn't guess.  And I'm a pretty good guesser.  I really liked the touch of supernatural/spirituality elements.  I'm a fantasy fan.  I liked its subtle place in this book, a bit of the mystical for those of us who like a healthy spoonful of magic with our Wheaties.  I thought the voice was strong.  I may have had a problem with the motivations and some of the logic processes attributed to the Main Character, but she certainly had her own voice.  It was strong, consistent throughout, etc.

And, bottom line, I was entertained.  I think most of us, as writers, much as we might like to talk about the Great American novel or the art of what we do...we want to entertain.  And I thought the book accomplished that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Side Effects: A Blog on Writing

For the second time, I sat down to write a blog and wrote a story instead.  This one was non-fiction, which means it shall live and die on my hard-drive or maybe printed out and tucked away in my journal.  It's not much of a story, I suppose, a vignette of my evening with my younger niece and nephew, babysitting.  Not that it's really babysitting these days.  I am the adult presence, the arbiter of the remote, she who vetoes all horror flicks beyond a PG rating.  "But Dad lets me..."

Still, I sat down to write a blog and managed a story.  It's evidence, I suppose, proof positive that I have not completely lost touch with my muse.  I think she's a lazy muse, probably fat like me, round-cheeked and huffing from the effort. 

One of my fellow WOK bloggers posted a dialogue with his muse, one structured with encouragement and the certainty of her existence.

I am not always convinced of mine.  She is quiet, whispering when she must but otherwise silent as she snuggles into the folds of grey matter she's meant to stimulate.  I think she sings lullabies, drinks hot cocoa in the dark.  She sleeps a lot.

This blog challenge has put me to keyboard, roused her with the jump and pulse of my brain-waves.  She pushes back against her one-time pillow, forcing false starts and stuttering the snap of a back-and-forth dialogue.  And yet, stories...!

It's not that I never write. I don't mean to imply that. I am good at forcing pages when the deadline looms.  But the regular act, the daily routine, is hard.  The muse is stubborn.  She hates mornings as much as I do, is grumpy and disgruntled, scratches at her head, cracks her jaw and wobbles her chin in weary annoyance at being disturbed.  She likes evenings little better, always ready to pack it in early, nest herself in a night's dreams.

And yet, tired and grumpy and out of shape, she produces.  I produce, poking and prodding at her all the while.

This is good. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Confessions of a Mother's Day Blog: What I Am Not Writing About

I saw the posts go up today, everyone writing about their Moms.  I haven't read them yet.  That's for later, after my own thoughts are set and published and beyond bashful retreat.  But I caught on to the theme right quick.  The immediate reaction?  I should write about my mother!  What a terrif-

And then my brain stalled.  And I had the mental conversation in my head.

"Hey Mom!  I'm going to write about you in my blog!"  Me.  (Just in case you hadn't figured it out).

"What?"  Conversations in my family generally include a lot of repetition.  I suspect either genetic hearing loss and/or chronic inattention.  Maybe both. 

"My blog," I say.  "I'm going to write about you in my blog."

"Your blog?"

"My blog."

"You have a blog?"

"Sort of." 

"I didn't know you had a blog."

"Yeah, you did.  I mentioned it."  Which I did, in passing, in response to a direct question from my father.  What do you say when the man asks, "Hey, do you have a blog?"  My mother was in the room.  So it counts.

"You did?"  She doesn't really doubt me.  We talk all the time and stuff gets missed, mislaid, forgotten.  The brain can only absorb so much minutiae.  "Huh, I don't remember that."

"I did," I tell her.  It feels like a lie.  After all, same breath, I maybe sort of also told my Dad I didn't write in it regularly.  Truth, but a half-truth.  I may have possibly sort of steered him toward the idea I'd abandoned it.  I didn't want him googling me.  If you want to be a psychologist, you can.  I baffle myself, so have a crack.

"And you're writing about me?"

"Yeah, it's Mother's day.  Almost.  Sort of."

"What are you writing?"  Here there is deep suspicion.  This seems to root from one of my very first pieces of fiction.  It involved a woman with an almost compulsive need to wash dishes.  This detail was incidental to the story but it was the key piece of evidence my mother brought forth in her accusation that I was writing about her.  I wasn't.  I really wasn't.  If I could go back in time and make the character a chain-smoker instead, I would.

"Nothing bad."

"But what?"

"I don't know.  About you.  General stuff.  Growing up stuff.  Is that alright?"

In my head, she always ends up saying okay, but in the tone of voice that lets me know it really isn't okay at all and she'd rather I write about something else, anything else.  Why?  If I could answer that, I could probably tell you why she doesn't know I have a blog, at least not one I actually write in.  I think she's afraid I'll embarrass her, tell you one of the stories I tease her with when the mood strikes, one of the stories in which she's silly or funny or human.  Maybe I'll share something more personal, some private painful moment in her life.  Maybe I'll confess some heretofore un-spoken resentment for my childhood.  Who knows?

Truth is, what I do know is that she wouldn't want me to tell her stories here.  So I share my mental cobwebs instead, conversations that never happened, fears that are maybe more mine than hers, a long-winded explanation of why, this Mother's Day, I'm saying (in my head; we have established that's where these conversations take place) "Mom, I'm writing about not writing about you in my blog today."

And, if you do somehow stumble across this blog, Mom, Happy Mother's Day.  I promise, no resentment, no silly stories and life is good.  Love ya lots.

P.S.  Dad, if you find this which is the more likely bet, it's my issue and nothing to do with you.  Love you too.