30 March 2012

A Month in Reading: February 2012

I pledged to read a book a week and a short story a day in 2012. I've just completed my March challenge. These are the highlights of February's readings.

I read three works of non-fiction and one short story anthology in February (Dark Faith, which I posted about in my January reading report.)

Hostage to the Devil by Malachi Martin (HarperOne 1992) took me several months to read because I could not read it in bed at night. This slowed down my progress considerably because I do much of my reading at bedtime. This book is so cuckoonuts terrifying that I had to reserve my reading sessions for broad daylight. Malachi Martin was a Catholic priest and theologian who participated in hundreds of exorcisms during his lifetime. Hostage follows five case studies of people suffering from demonic possession and the priests who exorcised them.

Okay, okay, let's say you have a skeptical mind and don't believe in demons. Even so, there is something creepy about the concept of malevolent forces whose only recourse is to both hate and feed off us. It is a classic horror trope: maybe the classic horror trope. Fabulous storytelling here.

David Mamet's Three Uses of the Knife is his essay on the purpose of drama, broken down into the key problems and issues at play in each of the three acts. Although the focus is on stage and (sort of) screen, this is useful stuff for any writer of fiction. My favourite bit, on reaching the third act and the all-too-common montage / unnecessary pause for self-reflection that happens there (from page 76):
It has been said that a poem is never completed; it is only abandoned. Like a poem, a drama is difficult to structure. In my experience the dramatist gets tired at precisely the same point as the protagonist: facing the third act. The act is outlined, the task is plain, if difficult, and the very clarity of the task is dispiriting. 
Once the third act is planned, for better or worse, the play is done. Dramatists complete the act with whatever gifts of dialogue and invention they have been given, but the die is cast. The potter has fired the piece. Still, the act has to be written (the pot still has to be glazed), and the dramatist thinks, again, "Oh, come on - it's in my head. Must I go on? Are you really going to make me write it down?" 
I read that and I thought, amen, brother. I've been there on every story I've written. I like the idea of the unnecessary pause in the narrative (the fireside chat before the battle, the backstory about the detective's pet turtle) arising as a result of the writer being all tuckered out. (I guess that means we should be editing these out, right?)

The final book I read ("read") in February was Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind, which is a lecture and an interview cobbled together, but substantial enough that I counted it as a book. Candace Pert is a pharmacologist who has researched and written about the interconnection between the molecules our cells use to communicate and our physical, emotional, and spiritual states. Most interesting facts from Your Body Is Your Subconscious Mind: neurotransmitters are found everywhere in the body, not just in the brain. Cell receptors - the little "keyholes" into which neurotransmitters plug - are not steady state. They change configuration from moment to moment, determining to some degree which precise versions of neurotransmitters can "unlock" them. Neurotransmitters seem to work at a physical distance from the cells they trigger. The brain makes insulin.

I read my way through the last bit of the Dark Faith anthology. In particular I loved "Ring Road" by Mary Robinette Kowal and Lucien Soulban's "The Choir." Catherynne M. Valente's zombie tale, "The Days of Flaming Motorcycles," was everything zombie fiction should be and more.

I started in on Fragile Things, Neil Gaiman's story collection. There is something about reading single-author story collections that is extra instructive. You pick up a subtle thread that runs through all the stories, even in a collection as eclectic as this one. If you want a sample, "A Study in Emerald," a Lovecraftian Sherlock Holmes story, is available online. Worth it for the fun typeset. Because I used to be an academic I enjoyed "Bitter Grounds" also.

With all this collection and anthology reading I didn't focus as much on online stories in February. I did pick up a copy of  Stupefying Stories (issue 1.3), because it's a new-ish magazine and I hadn't had the chance to look at it yet. I read and liked "Oogie Tucker's Mission" by Gary Cuba. Because I hang out in some woowoo social circles who are all "2012! The end is nigh!" the final image of this story stuck with me for a while. More on Stupefying in my post on my March readings.

My final recommendation for the month is "Killing Merwin Remis" by Jason Helmandollar, a gem that I found in my Pseudopod feed, originally posted in September 2011. If you have ever had a neighbour you hated, this is for you. Big Anklevich's narration is absolutely delicious.

24 March 2012

Fire! Fire! (Alternate Title: Let Me Eat Cake)

By Joyce Azria of BCBGeneration, via

In celebration of the release of The Hunger Games movie this weekend, I set my oven on fire. Just kidding! My oven did catch on fire, but it's just a coincidence.

Last night I decided to make delicious marble cake. I've been obsessing over finding the perfect not-too-sweet recipe ever since I had marble coffee cake at William's Coffee Pub, our local spot for write-ins, a while back. I turned on the oven, got out my shiny food processor, loaded up an episode of Mysterious Universe for the requisite kitchen project ear stimulation, and started getting out ingredients. (Is it wrong to talk about The Hunger Games and delicious cake in the same post? Whatever. Those of us in the first world know we basically are the Capital of Panem, right?)

Seemed the oven was taking a little too long to heat up, so I took a closer look: flames! Okey dokey no problem: perhaps there was some goo or something in the bottom. I turned it off, and the flames kept going. Snapped off my headphones, cocked an ear: there was a zapping sound coming out of the oven. Zapping, as in the kind of sound that accompanies the inevitable Jacob's Ladder in a mad scientist's laboratory.


I yelled like ninjas had just invaded the kitchen called for Dave to come give me a hand, grabbed the fire extinguisher, and emptied the whole thing into the oven while Dave went downstairs to throw the breaker. Turns out, the fire extinguisher was not necessary or useful: the fire was a result of the oven's bottom element melting through itself and making contact with the oven floor, thus creating a mighty, power-drawing, flamey circuit.


We've got a shiny new element waiting to be installed, but first, there is the small matter of cleaning out the oven. It's basically like somebody (me) threw a giant bucket of finely ground sand all over it. Last night, Dave and I spent a couple of hours cleaning the floors and loading up the dishwasher with all the stuff that got spritzed on, but the oven is just coated. Can you think of a better way to spend Friday night with your awesome boyfriend? No, I didn't think so.

It's going to be a while before there is marble cake.

But regardless of how the cleanup goes, I am going to see The Hunger Games tomorrow night. Can't wait.

21 March 2012

I Accidentally the Whole Thing

Today yesterday was the day for our final post on the Two Weeks of Reflection challenge: one confession.

Yeah. Confession implies I have some kind of hidden bit of info, but honestly I feel as though after the last couple of weeks, it's all pretty much out there, you know? This may sound like finking out, but I honestly don't have anything that feels like a confession left to say, especially in the context of a blog. I mean, what?

Internet, when I was twelve I borrowed ten dollars from your purse and I never put it back.

Internet, I cheated on you with television.

Internet, I chopped down the cherry tree.

If you're looking for a great confession, go over to Fantasy Writer Guy's place and read what he has to say about his sexual orientation. (p.s. FWG, you might experience a slight bump in your page views.)

It's been a wonderful couple of weeks. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by here to witness this display of exhibitionism. I've got a whole lot more where this came from. Next up: I'll be Lucky Sevening.

I also want to thank Mark for rewarding me with the Versatile Blogger award. I'll post more about it soon, but check out the badass version of the badge he's posted:

Yes, please.

19 March 2012

Two Images

Today's (penultimate) assignment: Two images that describe your life right now.

Via Ken Keller's Fractal Art Gallery
I'm walking. The path is steep, and only wide enough for one. Below where I'm walking is another path. Someone is on it too. The further we walk, the more the lower path falls away, the more distance there is between me and that other pilgrim in the wilderness.

In my mind's eye, I can picture some of the things that lie on the low road. They aren't good things. There's darkness and trouble and giant, looming monsters. The thing is, I'm fine where I'm walking. This is my path and I know it for what it is. I can't do a damn thing about that other place.

I recently made a huge shift in my life. I can honestly say I never imagined I would be in the place I am right now. This is not something I've blogged about because there's the potential that I'd be airing dirty laundry. (I'm doing it here and now because I'm pretty sure none of the people I'm avoiding mentioning are familiar with my writing alias.)

I chose to split from a group I've been a part of for a very long time - more than fifteen years. I made the shift because that group went in a direction that is not positive.

There's a lot of cause here for bitterness and accusation, and I know the other side has been actively cutting loose with slagging me publicly and often. Lately I've been working on forgiveness. That means accepting that the path I've chosen is not compatible with the way the group has gone. It also means that I accept that whatever issues the other side needs to work out, it is their right to do so, even if it's not the way I would have chosen to do it. I can't stay any longer, but going my own separate way means I don't have to judge or condemn or witness the tragedy. It means I'm free to do my thing, and they're free to do their thing.

The Ploughman from Hans Holbein the Younger's Dance of Death (1523-6)

Lately I've been feeling like the most important thing is just to keep working at the things I want to do. That includes moving toward goals but also shifting things on a physical level so that they work better for me. I'm using the image of The Ploughman from Hans Holbein the Younger's Dance of Death series of woodcuts. The image of the farmer toiling in the field is full of spiritual significance. It binds the idea of good, basic hard work with the idea of moving toward the shining city of the New Jerusalem in the background. Here, the skeletal figure representing death aids the Ploughman. In the other woodcuts of the Dance of Death series, he's usually mocking people and leading them into danger.

The Drunkard from the Dance of Death

I don't identify as Christian, but I am open to and love Christian iconography. To me the idea here isn't a simple "work hard and you'll go to heaven," but rather the idea that focusing on the essential things you need to do in the course of a day is a way of drawing down paradise in the here and now. It's hard, but it's lovely. The use of the plough as a symbol of hard, worthwhile work has a long history. It's one Tom Waits is pulling on (har har) in "Get Behind the Mule."

18 March 2012

Ultimate Perfect Weekend

It starts with packing up the car with a few groceries, a couple of bags of books and clothes, the dog and the cat.

I pick Dave up at work and instead of heading back into the city, we carry on Northward. The sun sets as we drive. We stop for something warm to drink and a snack in Huntsville, but mostly we carry on through.

By the time we get to where we're going, it's 10pm, maybe later. It's all okay though because we've got a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers, easily accessible, to open once we've let ourselves in through the clinky gate, driven down the long dark laneway, and parked beside the porch. We'll unload our stuff in a hurry and stick groceries in the propane fridge on the screened-in porch. Serious unpacking will wait til tomorrow as we wrangle the dog and try to get him to calm down: he knows where we are now, and he's excited as I am.

We light the wood stove, toast the weekend, and fall into bed.

When we wake up the next day, we're in paradise. The leaves are rustling in the woods, and I go down the big hill to the lake, where I'll sit with a coffee and watch the water. During the day, I'll sneak off to do some tai chi in the big open field at the top of the hill. We'll walk the property together, maybe head out onto the lake in the rowboat. We'll read and watch movies. We'll cook long elaborate meals and talk about life and stuff. I might get some writing in, but mostly we'll relax.

When Sunday comes, I'll be a little bit sad, but we'll pack up knowing that we'll be back soon.

House of Dreams


Today's Yesterday's assignment: build your dream home; describe it room by room.

In some ways, I feel like I already live in my dream home. There's a mostly non-leaky roof over our heads; we've got plenty of space for books and writing supplies. Ever since Dave insisted that we buy our little portable dishwasher, things have been much more under control in the kitchen (thanks, honey!). So, you know, I'm grateful.

I've mentioned this before, but we are house hunting this year. We're both looking for a version of the house we're renting, I think. We both like old features, hardwood, and maybe a creaky attic. I want a yard substantial enough for some serious gardening, and, if the City of Hamilton makes keeping chickens legal within city limits, I'm thinking about a small flock. (p.s. sign the petition here).

Nothing noteworthy about my dream home; the dream practice hall is another matter, but I've written about that before.

15 March 2012

Three Turn-Offs

Closing in on the end of Two Weeks of Reflection. Since it's a low number and we are so often defined by what we loathe, I invite everybody to chime in.





Bad grammar.

Via Cyanide and Happiness

Four Turn-Ons

Disclaimer: Again, not a personal ad, just another assignment via Fantasy Writer Guy's Two Weeks of Reflection. If anybody out there wants to write or has written something featuring a character who has these qualities, I'd like to know.

No apologies, no explanations, just the facts:






14 March 2012

Five Ways to Win My Heart

Today's list, à la Two Weeks of Reflection.

ETA: Not a personals ad. The assignment is "five ways to win my heart," and I read that in the broadest way possible. I built this list to include five qualities that render people endearing to me, whether in the context of romance, friendship, or amusement. 

Like animals. This can mean animals in general. If you're dog or cat or chicken or goat or horse person, I'll probably like you. Even better if you like my animals. Back when we were still dating and not yet living together, Dave suggested that rather than leave my cat Ben with my folks for two weeks, we take him with us on our cottage vacation. In the love Olympics, this was like winning the gold medal in all categories ever.

Be interested in life, stuff, and the world. Do obscure facts and the way things work fascinate you? Do you like talking about other people's theories of the way things are? Do you have your own theories? If your mind is switched on, and you like playing with ideas, chances are I will see you as a kindred spirit.

Do something that you are not obligated to do. I adore people who have obsessions or vocations. Since the vast majority of people who read this blog are writers, here's looking at you.

This is a sub-category of the last two, but it has a special place in my heart: be an arts or humanities major. Every year, thousands of young people choose history over journalism, literature over engineering, fine arts over business. Why do they do it? Because they love it. Because they are fascinated. Because they can imagine nothing finer than spending years of their lives learning about what other people have created. Arts majors are important because they understand our cultural legacy. They have a formal education in how people have dreamed, framed the events that formed us, and expressed ourselves as human beings.

Be nice, be sincere, and embrace compassion. It has become a fashionable thing to be cynical, or to adopt a know-it-all attitude. Too often we criticize rather than try to understand where someone is coming from. It is very, very hard, under the current cultural climate, to be soft in one's approach to others. Anyone who can manage to be genuine has my respect and affection.

13 March 2012

Six Things I Wish I'd Never Done

Hindsight is 20/20 Once The Mind Trick Wears Off
Via Very Demotivational

Day Seven!

I am a no regrets kind of person. Even when I almost died that one time, I was still (eventually) able to see it as a learning, growing, shove into a new direction kind of thing. Still, over the course of a lifetime one does build up a list of things that might have gone more smoothly had one chosen otherwise.

I wish I hadn't eaten French toast before attending our town fair when I was eleven. Those spinny, whirly rides did me no favours, neither on a social nor digestive level.

I wish I'd left when I realized my relationship was over, not a year later.

This is more a category than a single thing, but I always, almost immediately, regret boasting.

I sometimes wish I never went to grad school, but then again it did sort of sustain me financially for a while there when I needed it. I guess I'd say I wish I'd allowed myself to acknowledge that I wasn't going to go into academia as a formal career. I might have enjoyed the process of getting my degrees more.

I wish I hadn't stayed stuck in child-parent mode with my folks for as long as I did. We've shifted our dynamic to a much happier, more fun place now. Yeah, I'm still their kid, but we aren't playing the old negative scripts much any more. It's better.

I wish I hadn't allowed creative writing to slip so often. Life got in the way. It shouldn't have. (And I'm so glad I'm back into it!)

12 March 2012

Seven Things that Often Cross My Mind

Day whatever of Two Weeks of Reflection: Seven things that often cross your mind.

Straight from my internal monologue:

I should vacuum.

Do I really have time to vacuum? No. Didn't think so.

Where's the dog?  (He likes to sneak off and sleep in stealthy places, like under a pile of blankets.)

There should be more sacrifice in this story. Somebody's gotta lose an eye (or arm, or loved one...).

Stretch, relax, focus; stretch, relax, focus. (That one's mostly about tai chi, but not entirely.)

I suck.

I am awesome.

11 March 2012

Five Million Dollars

You win five million in the lottery. How, specifically, do you spend (or save) each dollar?

Easy: I would build a centre for natural healing and the internal martial arts, where people could come, stay, learn, and heal.

This would also double as a writing retreat. I've already drawn up the floor plan. It involves cosy little dorm rooms, each with a bed and desk, each one with a view of the woods or open field, and large central hall with a huge wood stove, giant windows that could be removed in favour of screens in summer, with room for a big table for evening discussion and meals.

I would build it on our family land, 98 acres, that my grandfather bought for my grandmother for $100 back in the 1940s.

Your dogs would be most welcome there.

I would build it here:

Just a little to the right of that huge conifer.

I would spend as much time as I could here, working on becoming as self-sufficient as possible, while soaking in the incredible energies of the pristine wilderness. If no one wanted to come, I would write and practice.

Basically, it would be my life right now, but with more trees, more wilderness, less time spent in the city, a few more chickens, a lot more foraging, planting, and harvesting, and more selective socializing.

(p.s. Wouldn't you love to write here?)

09 March 2012

Music for a Desert Island

This first of Fantasy Writer Guy's weekend assignments.

In no particular order, and without prejudice. Thirteen here - I would probably include still more Bowie and some Police, if I had room in my lifeboat.

Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes
This album has been in steady rotation in my playlist this winter. "White Winter Hymnal" is probably my favourite song from it.

David Bowie: Alladin Sane and Scary Monsters
I won't explain, except to say that Alladin Sane is good for grooving, and Scary Monsters is one of my go-to writing soundtracks. In this 1973 recording, Bowie performed "Time" as Ziggy Stardust.

Tom Waits: The Black Rider and Mule Variations
I assume there would come a time, should I in fact be washed ashore on some desert island, that I would go completely looney tunes. Black Rider, with its weird circus-themed catalogue of not good things, would be a perfect off kilter soundtrack. It's worth it, just so I could play "November" over and over. From Mule Variations, "Filipino Box Spring Hog" is a perfect song for jumping around. "Come on Up to the House" is redemption in music form.

Dead Man's Bones: Dead Man's Bones (Featuring the Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children's Choir)
I heard Dead Man's Bones for the first time on Rue Morgue Radio. It was a while before I figured out that their spooky sounding frontman was Ryan Gosling. Their 2009 album contains spooky songs about zombies and ghosts (and maybe superheroes?) and makes terrific use of a children's choir. It's strong from start to finish, but you might  have already heard "My Body's a Zombie for You," so here's "Lose Your Soul."

Kate Bush: The Dreaming and The Kick Inside
I could wax poetic about Kate Bush, but I think I'll just quote YouTube user cloudboheme:
Kate Bush is probably one of the only people I can think of who could twist and convulse wildly in a ballerina costume surrounded by jesters and minotaurs, rollerskate around wearing a white smock and a Dunce hat, shift her voice pitch and tone from high to creepily low, and still manage to come out as a class act. Every time. Thank you to the fabulous Kate for restoring my faith in originality and inspiration.
The Dreaming is another of those records that feels like a novel: it's complete from start to finish, not great necessarily because of any one of its songs - although "Sat in Your Lap" is one of my favourites - but great because it somehow satisfies as a coherent whole.

DeVotchKa: Una Volta
You might know DeVotchKa because they composed and performed much of the soundtrack of 2006's Little Miss Sunshine. In 2003, they came out with the album Una Volta. It was exactly the right mix of sad and hopeful for me that year, and it has stuck with me.

Miho Hatori: Ecdysis
My music collection has a little tide pool in it, in which Japanese girl musicians float. Miho Hatori is the best of the best. I bought Ecdysis on the strength of the samba-inspired "Barracuda," but I've played it over and over from start to finish.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Let Love In
Not my only Nick Cave record, but the one I return to again and again, if only to listen to "Red Right Hand." For when I"m all alone on the island and I need to pretend I'm badass.

Leadbelly: Absolutely the Best
Blues is underrepresented on this list. If I could only take one blues album to a desert island, it would be this Leadbelly collection. (Nirvana covered it, in case it sounds familiar.)

Brandenburg Concertos
Morning music.

Gustav Holst: The Planets
Another soundtrack for writing.

Eight (Types of) People Who Mean a Lot to Me and Why

The o-fish-o assignment for today is:

Eight people who mean a lot to you and why.

For the sake of protecting the innocent, the guilty, and those whose names I can't remember, I'm revising this assignment yet again.

I give you eight categories of people who mean a lot to me and why:

The Folks
Family is great, isn't it? Okay, it isn't always. Some of them are cheerleaders. Some are wise elders. Some are pains in the butt. No matter who they are or how we interact, they're mine. That's worth something. It's worth a whole lot.

The Non-Humans
I find I often don't like homo sapiens. We're a crafty lot, but also full of ego, bitterness and greed. Give me the woods, or some time spent with a dog or cat, and I am fine. Just look at this face:

There, isn't that better?

The Mentors
You took the time to teach me stuff that you knew. Because of you, I'm a better person than I was.

Sometimes you turned to the dark side of the force. Even when I decided I had to fight you, you still taught me a whole heck of a lot.

At your worst, you taught me that mapping the path and walking the path are two radically different things. In the end, you taught me that I am the only one who can say that I have really and truly graduated. That wasn't a gift you intended to give me, but it is one for which I'm especially grateful.

The Students
I've taught you Shakespeare; I've taught you Foucault. I've taught you acting and directing; I've taught you ancient wisdom and the art of kicking ass. I've taught you how to help yourselves when your bodies were aching and your hearts were sore. I've taught you how to enjoy yourselves even though I was stuffing your noggins full of The Learning. For stepping up to the plate, you have my enduring respect. Even when you hated my guts - well, actually, you lot missed the point, didn't you?

The Friends
Couldn't do without you. 'Nuff said.

The Play People
When I met you the bond wasn't based on anything deep and true and real. It was based on fun. You are the play people. I've spent the afternoon with you and laughed my guts out; I've spun castles in the air with you or played a game of snark. Some of you have had starring roles in the (melo)drama of my life, for good or for ill.

The Parasites
It took me a while to figure you out, but I've got your number now.

The Gods

There are some people who just know how to bring it.


Maybe what they do is truly bizarre and so iconoclastic that many people will turn away before they can even begin to form the question, "Why?"

From the small town musical theatre performer who will never see a dime for singing his heart out, to the mega talent whose written word strikes awe in the hearts of millions, I salute you. I would not see the point in even trying to write if not for you.


08 March 2012

Nine Things About Me that Maybe Might Surprise People Who Think They Know Me and Who Possibly Do Sort of in Their Way After a Fashion

Lichtenburg Figure

It's Day 2 of the Fantasy Writer Guy Reflection Challenge!

I am having a terrible time with this assignment. This is the exact turn of phrase: "Nine things about yourself that might surprise people who think they know you."

I do not know what people think of me in the first place, so how do I know who thinks they know me and how do I know who doesn't? I hesitate on the very verge of the open doorway of this cocktail party because I wonder, seriously and truly, what is the mystery of me and what is super obvious. It is really, really embarrassing to be all, "Oooh, I bet you'd never have guessed this naughty truth" only to have your interlocutor go, "Oh yeah, I knew that within five seconds of meeting you."

Sooo.....I am changing the assignment to

Nine open secrets that you probably don't know if you only know me through this blog:

I've got enough metal plates and pins in my arms to set off a metal detector at the airport.

The above fact does not bother me.

I overcame my injuries by doing tai chi. I've been practicing for almost twenty years.

I spend much of my time teaching and practicing tai chi and other internal martial arts (lok hup, hsing-i, paqua, sword, and sabre), qigong, and reiki. These pursuits are just as important to me as writing, which is to say very.

I am a spiritual person. Taoism is my primary focus.

I will defend your right to believe whatever you do (or don't). Each person has to decide for himself or herself. That is the name of the game, in some ways the only game.

I see no contradiction between being a spiritual person and writing (or reading) fiction that depicts violence, gore, ignorance, pain, or other dark stuff. It's a tricky, difficult world. Stories are here to help us process the hardest parts.

I met my partner after I made a resolution that I was going to be picky and wait as long as it took to meet someone who was right for me. About five minutes after.

My best friend is someone I've known since grade eight. That's just about thirty years. Yesterday's number five is about her.

06 March 2012

Ten Things I Want to Say to Ten Different People Right Now

Day One of the Fantasy Writer Guy "Two Weeks of Reflection" challenge. Get yours now!

Ten things I want to say to ten different people right now (in no particular order):

I didn't quit on a whim or because I'm against you. You made it impossible for me to stay. You've lost the light.

I bet you're having a nice time. You are okay in your lives and I am okay in mine.

I hope you're happy, but I bet you're miserable. Actually, I don't really hope you're happy.

I fully intend to pay you back. It's twelve years later and I still don't have the money. Sorry.

I would be shit scared to live my life without you in it.

With the exception of that one thing at which you are unusually talented, the sex wasn't that good. I do sometimes miss that one thing, though.

You're a rattlesnake of a human being, so small and mean, I'm amazed that anyone will talk to you.

I hate to prognosticate, but I think what we're doing is going to succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

I often wonder what happened to you. I wish we'd kept the conversation going.

I stopped writing because you criticized me. I guess I needed our correspondence to be a critique-free zone. Yes, what I said was maybe too cynical. I didn't have my head screwed on right.

The Fantasy Writer Guy Challenge: Two Weeks of Reflection

The diabolical yet delightful Fantasy Writer Guy has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged me to two weeks of reflection. The assignments seem to operate on a scale of Fun to Yikes.

The idea is you post an answer per day. These are fun exercises, people. Some of them are also yikes exercises. I reckon if you want to participate in the challenge, the thing to do is hop over to FWG's post about it and add your two cents to the comments there. IT STARTS TOMORROW DO NOT HESITATE JOIN US JOIN USSSSSS!

(Uh, if you're reading this after March 7, you know, you could still do the challenge. Probably.)

Unconvinced? Behold the juiciness:

Day 1: Wednesday March 7: Ten things you want to say to ten different people right now.

Day 2: Thursday March 8: Nine things about yourself that might surprise people who think they know you.

Day 3: Friday March 9: Eight people who mean a lot to you and why (in no particular order).

Day 4: Saturday March 10: List your "desert island" top 20 music albums, or whatever number works for you, preferably in order! Should anthologies qualify? You decide.

Day 5: Sunday March 11: You win five million in the lottery. How, specifically, do you spend (or save) each dollar?

Day 6: Monday March 12: Seven things that often cross your mind.

Day 7: Tuesday March 13: Six things you wish you’d never done.

Day 8: Wednesday March 14: Five ways to win your heart.

Day 9: Thursday March 15: Four turn-ons (interpret as you wish).

Day 10: Friday March 16: Three turn-offs.

Day 11: Saturday March 17: Build your dream home. Describe it room by room.

Day 12: Sunday March 18: Describe your ultimate perfect weekend from Friday night through Sunday.

Day 13: Monday March 19: Two images that describe your life right now and why

Day 14: Tuesday March 20: One confession.

01 March 2012

Trunking It

The fabulous Bluestocking has a post up today about her decision to trunk a story.

She writes,
This was a tough decision for me. I’m not one to give up easily. I do think any idea can be salvaged. But that still doesn’t mean something is publishable, or a least publishable in the way I want it to be. Or that the time spent fixing the story isn’t better spent on writing new ones.
The entirety of her post - which has amazing advice in it about why you might consider the trunk and how to know when it's time - had me cringing and nodding in sympathy. I just retired the first story of 2012, which was also one of the first stories I wrote a few years ago when I decided to take a serious stab at writing.

The first time I wrote it, it was a flash piece (based on a dream, I might add). It always bugged me that I couldn't place it. It bugged me even more that there was something about it that just didn't feel right.

This year, short on ideas for Write 1, Sub 1, I decided to take a stab at rewriting it, from scratch. This second effort was much longer. It had more developed characters. I introduced an amazing grandmother character. I cooked up a central romance that was sweet and endangered. The main villain got a fair shot at redemption. The tentacles were writhing. I sent it out a couple of places, but gee if I didn't still think - sorry, know - that there was something essentially wrong with the whole thing. Probably that same thing was wrong when it was a flash piece.

I'm not sorry I tried to rewrite it. It was a good lesson. I didn't have a clear idea of any changes I wanted to make to the original story. "More detail" was how I approached the rewrite, but I laid that detail out on the same skeleton as the original piece.

The bottom line for me is that I don't want to fool myself into sending something out when it's got my Spidey Sense tingling. If it doesn't feel right, I might not be able to put my finger on it, but I would rather put my efforts behind a piece I believe in. Other shorts I've written this year have come together in a much more felicitous fashion. I couldn't necessarily put my finger on why they work and this other piece doesn't. I don't think a writer always knows, either. There are plenty of pieces that I am not sure about that I send out anyway. Sometimes that works out, and the story becomes brilliant in my mind in retrospect. (Yes, because someone else liked it. I am sometimes shallow.)

It's just that when there is that feeling that something is missing or lacking, that there is something about a piece that gives me the hinks, I would rather put it aside.