Sunday, May 14, 2017

Collection

Casey Karp's blog is a new favorite, not just for his talents in wordlery, but also because he brings the learn-y stuff. This week, take a look at some of Amazon's REALLY chilling new problems. One, the new world in gig-economy logistics, and two, the Authors Guild article he links from that post, about how a new algorithm may cost the publishing industry - and authors. The final sentence here is pretty frightening.

I enjoy Jeff Sypeck's unique outlook; here is an interesting area of cultural context leading up to the American Civil War. Excellent quote from Mark Twain on this. Looking at what we consume as relating to what we enact.

"Rubber ducky, I love you - and the writing you help me do!" Maggie Maxwell has a great strategy, apparently used by IT programmers. I've never heard of talking to the duck, but it does make a kind of sense. (Though, personally? I tend to use actual coworkers or other writers or readers, depending on my issues ... Writing buddies really DO make great ducks. Heh.)

Friday, May 12, 2017

Another Five Years

Right at the moment I was thinking of one scale of time, I was missing out on multiple others. This year, I managed to forget not only TEO's birthday, but Gossamer's (May Day) and Penny's (my April Fool).



Last night, I saw something I have never seen before. Goss has closed his eyes in the *presence* of Penelope before, of course. But last night, as I got up from the laptop and TV to go upstairs and go to bed, I saw Gossamer closing his eyes AT Penelope.

For those non catters among us: a cat's closing its eyes "at" another living thing is a specific communication. It means "I trust you", and is a profound cue to its relationships. Cats aren't famous for handing out their trust lightly. So to see Goss gazing clearly and fixedly on Penny (who was on the couch and oblivious), and repeatedly almost-closing his eyes at her was a revelation to me. I wished it were possible for Pen to understand. But she didn't even see it. She was as unaware of Gossie in that moment as she was of current events in Southeast Asia.

Which is a shame. But I saw something wonderful.

Between the two of them, he tends to be the aggressor when they scuffle, and their scuffles - while not worrisome - don't feel like play. It's not because he doesn't mean to play, it's because Pen doesn't understand him as playing. The two of them speak completely different languages. Shoot, Pen and I speak completely different languages.

I have wished, since the two of them were kidlets, that they would ever become snuggle buddies. But I realized not long ago that Penny actually doesn't know how to snuggle. (Well ... not REALLY.) When she wants to be near me, she can't sit still. She demands pettin's, or just needs to wiggle. She's actually very physically awkward with affection, has been all her life. On the occasion she is allowed on the couch or on the bed, she can lie down, but rarely is she touching me. When I try to cozy up with her, she gets actively confused - and by actively, I mean that the physical contact, no matter how relaxed my demeanor, drives her to activity, even anxiety. She can't sit still and just snuggle. She cannot even seem to conceive of it. So approaches to snuggling confuse her and set her off.

Now, Gossamer: he is a nestler from way back. He likes body heat, and he likes stillness. Sure, he loves a good pettin', but he can settle in for a good sit without being attended to, and often prefers that over any form of movement. Petting itself tends to end in lying still and snoozing.



So obviously, the lack of snuggle-ation between these two has never been antipathetic, it's just that one party is incapable of it. They have their moments. And since I realized Pen doesn't know how to snuggle, I've tried to work her towards at least understanding snoozy physical contact. When she's been allowed on the bed of late, I put my feet against her back and just say the word, "Snuggle." Once or twice, I've been able to achieve non-petting contact when she's been on the couch, and said the word, "Snuggle."

Communicating. I'm slow, but I learn.



Happy fifth birthdays to my Poobahs, yellow and grey. They are my ongoing adventure, most of the laughs in my life, and constant blessings.

I still aspire to be good enough for either one of 'em.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Collection

Strangely, considering how much I lean on them for content around here, it's been a while since I did a Collection post. Let's make up for that, shall we?

This post from Casey Karp is a funny bit of truism - on procrastinators, writers, and the facts of documentation. He has a nimble way with a word, go read his blog for this, or many other things!

Who watched Feud, the recent "anthology series" (we used to call these miniseries, kids) about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? One of the things that captivated me was its production design. From the brilliant cutout-animation of the credits to the airless, sky-less sets - even the outdoors feels indoors in this film - there is a set-bound feel, for such a sprawling piece, covering decades and many cities. The returns to a single home for each star (Crawford had many over the years, but writing historical fiction does involve elision and compilation), the visitation of one windowless and symmetrically-posed restaurant booth, the sets within the sets. It's all among the most amazing visual arts pieces I've ever seen done in a movie or show; there is a realism to the details, but an overwhelming, airless enclosure about the whole.

Many of my friends and family know, I've barely ever been able to tolerate Susan Sarandon at all, but of COURSE she was almost literally born to the role of Davis, and she probably edges out Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford here. Vocally, neither of them puts in a full-time job of sounding much like the original stars, but Sarandon does provide several moments looking and sounding like Davis which are spine-tinglingly eerie. Lange never even attempts the flinty twang of Crawford, which is a shame given that Crawford's voice is so much a part of her persona for those of us who've really spent any time watching her performances, but she doesn't fail as utterly as Faye Dunaway did with her voice. The smoker's modulation she does use is at least entirely appropriate to Crawford's aesthetic, and makes sense as a character choice.

Okay, enough of that. How about the history of the American grin - and the import/export problems with it? Very cool piece by The Atlantic; nicely detailed, but not a long read.

(D)ata showed that flight delays got worse as more people based purchases mostly on price. Airlines didn’t have to compete at being good—they had to compete only at being cheap.

Who doesn't love a good victim-blaming? I don't! In "the evolution of how we do things" news: aaaaahhhhh, airlines. Turns out it's all our own fault we're miserable with air travel. There is a complex web of implications here; not all of it bad, and some of the worst of it perfectly persuasive. Personally, I'm creeped out and concerned about The Uber-ization of Everything, but the wider implications could be interesting, should they actually play out. Hmmm. Lots of hmmm.

Ten high-quality products manufactured in the United States - I had no idea ANY shoes were manufactured domestically any more, and will keep New Balance in mind for my next pair of sneakers. Which may be sooner now, just because I know this.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Murder, I Wrote

I used the tag GREAT writing on this post, because sometimes writing *feels* great ... and you can just about believe your own work might be so, when that happens. Last week's momentum reached a bit of an apex in The Murder Scene ... wherein one of the main characters finds herself about to be burned alive, without touching the fires slowly cooking her life away. And it's as harrowing as it sounds.

Most writers know, reading our work out loud is important, and as I am ruled by rhythms (and a former theater major), I like doing this. It's hard to stifle the desire to read to anyone who makes the mistake of speaking with me on the phone, or coming over, and sometimes I fail. Such as Friday night, when I read the murder scene to my brother.

We both came away kind of shaking our heads. I realized that one key descriptor calls up the very birth scene which opens the novel (and the life of the woman about to meet her end). I wrote that birth scene maybe a decade ago; it was one of those backburner moments during research and side work on this WIP, while I was writing The Ax and the Vase, and I've never wanted to change it (yeah, you're not supposed to edit before you've even finished writing - for me, that "rule" is like typing; I self-correct as I go, you can't ask me not to do that, it is my way of doing things). My brother even approved of that callout; and I trust him as a critic. He's never been shy to criticize me! Heh.

But, yeah. Right now, it is all I can do not to post this scene here, and on my cube wall, maybe a couple billboards, and everywhere in the world.


This is what writing can feel like. It's been a long time since I attained this sense of accomplishment, and the way it followed on (Heaven help me) a THEME showing up uninvited - a theme which will work to create tension ... I mean, wow.

Yes, exquisite phrasing, is it not? "I mean, wow." Me writer. Me college gradual. Look, this is a blog, I'm allowed to save some of my best for the work meant for sale, right?




Few of us are at our most eloquent when things get truly exciting, but the excitement is real.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

This Long Now



Being far from someone you love. It is hard.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Picking and Choosing

Scenes come to me when they will. The term "pantser" doesn't appeal to me, but I am not an outlining writer, and the idea of composing a novel in order confounds me. I follow the research first, and the inspiration second. Usually because the latter doesn't precede the former, and I have a harder time capturing it.

Not long ago, I was working on that quiet moment, knowing what has got to come after it. The scene stands alone (though I do still need to get rid of that research-y bit about natron), but really there's no novel if anything does that. And so I must proceed.

Eventually.



I don't want to write the pogrom. And that is what follows, there.

Writing one of the first riotous, violent religious purges in the storied history of Christendom all but makes me long for a battle scene. And I hate writing battle scenes.

But even to contemplate this is so much worse. The only redemption before me is that I will not write from within the perspective of the murderers, the looters, the rapists, the cruel. But it is little consolation; knowing one is only surrounded by looting, rape, and killing doesn't take away the looting, rape, and killing.



So, today, I got back to the murder scene.

It's strange how preferable this is to writing the pogrom. It is smaller in scale, of course, and so I have more control, more ability to move through the mechanics of each moment - realization, sensation, progression.

It also takes place with a character who has come to a philosophical place of relinquishment. She's lost enough to eschew the rest, and life appears all but pointless by this moment. Losing everyone else was hard; losing herself, even painfully, may be a relief.

I've watched this relinquishment, of course. I've been witness to plaintive, righteous begging for death. It's hard, but great Christ do I understand it.

And so the crux of this murder is that it becomes manumission; the killers will free this woman, and she will accept escape at last, if only when she sees there is no other choice.


Thematically, of course, this links to my post from yesterday. So I had to go to this scene. (That is my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.) I had to find the sensations of the ground under her toes, the air down her throat, the sweat of her skin.

It's got me thinking of another death scene too. A character I can scarcely bear to see die, but who eventually must. A person can only live so long, and in the sixth century CE, even less than we tend to expect now.



When I emailed the manuscript to myself last night, as I do periodically as a kind of backup - the chronicle of my "versioning" (and progress) - I put a subject line on the email: "What good is this life edition" ...

There is an ancient religious philosophy - not only in Western schools of faith, but certainly predominant in Europe for centuries - that this life is a vale of tears, and the only existence worth contemplating is the eternal destination of the soul.

Think of Heaven. For kings and peasants alike, this was the mindset encouraged by so many aspects of so many ways of life.

Even as kings needs must strategize every single day.

Even as peasants must tend and bring in the harvest, the flock, the catch. Must learn how best this is done. Must feed the body, for letting it die - no matter how useless this life may be - was still a sin.



All these contradictions.

I'd rather write death than massacre.

Writing. Like everything else, it comes down to choices.




So. How's YOUR writing going?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Frisson

Something happened with the WIP today. Well, I should say, something happened with me - with my philosophy, my spirit, my self. And I turned to the WIP, and put several plug-ins to prompt myself to the theme, in different places.

Something happened with my writing.

How was your Thursday?