Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Oh, my achin' back ...  *Grin*

I do enjoy Christmas decorations, and the holiday was REALLY lovely - nice time in my own home this year, just me mom and her husband - but me oh my, how I do love how big and clean and bright the house seems for New Year's when I take it all down again.  It wasn't up long this year, scarcely over two weeks.  But today I finally got a huge new piece of furniture brought into the house.  Today all the dismantled tree bits, and boxes of ornaments, and standalone knickknacks are all stowed.

Today the house is very much lighter and more open.  Larger and spacious - even with a huge new piece in the dining room.  Today the stress of moving that, and all the picking up is done.

Tomorrow, I return the furniture dollies.  Tomorrow, I go to the grocery for a few very special ingredients.  Tomorrow, I will observe my New Year's rite - and worship - and dust and scrub the small stuff.

Tomorrow, the decks will be clear, the work of 2011 done - and I will be loaded and ready to fire away for 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Good to See

Cornwell hits another good list this year.  And my work is supposed to be outta style ...  Keep showin' 'em, Bernard.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lost and Not Lost

The internet is an amazing tool for obliterating the barrier between ourselves and the past.  It's rather a terrifying one for obliterating barriers between people (there are friends and others from my youth it took me many years to manage to lose touch with, and it is a little daunting to realize just how easy it is for that effort to go for naught, these days), for creating personal and financial vulnerability, for learning things it once might have been impossible to ever find.  For reunion with memories long past.

I did something this past week which represents both something I find kind of mystifyingly wonderful, and which also in a way goes against (some of) my beliefs.

I saw a photo of a weir the other day, and was brought to mind of the source from which I learned the word.  It was a book about a British boy, coming of age, and growing in friendship and attachment to an elusive girl he saw when exploring a weir out in the country.  The book was called The Otherwise Girl - something I'm pretty sure I bought at a library booksale when I was twelve or so - and one of those books I read at an age, and IN an age, when reading could still be so intimate and so singular an experience that it felt nobody else in the world could have ever known the story.

Reading was not, in the 1970s, especially for kids, really a blockbuster experience.  YA lit was backwater stuff, not the driving force in the publishing market it is today.  Until I discovered "Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaret" and S. E. Hinton, I was unaware of anything I had ever read (other than the Bible) which had ever been read by anyone else.  And so books, for me, were an extraordinarily personal adventure.  Every story I had ever read was, for me, precisely and wholly my own object and memory.  I still write as if, all marketing notwithstanding, my work is unheard and unseen, existing only for one reader - for myself - or for some imagined fourteen-year-old-boy staying for a summer at his great aunt's, who discovers this dusty old thing on a bookshelf and reads it, and somehow loves it.

What I mean to say with all this is that  The Otherwise Girl  represents something of a personal genre, a story only I have ever known, and which, because I lost it decades since, was one of the beautiful ephemera of the universe.  In some way, that enhances its strength and its appeals, its soft lines and gentle lessons, its eerie loveliness.  Its absence, like that of my youth itself, is a part of what underscores its place in my heart ...

The Otherwise Girl is, of course, not the only story of its kind for me.  The Underside of the Leaf is another.  A seamier tale.  A memory of reading something, still back in grade school - I must have been about eleven - which seemed shocking and almost forbidden.  These coming of age stories came when I was very young - before the modernity of Judy Blume, or the edgy sixties-hip of Hinton's Outsiders.  They came before I even aspired to literary sophistication, when I was very much a little kid.  They came to me utterly innocent, and told me tales both of sweetness and of tasted sorrow.  I recall, from Leaf, the intensity of feeling I had about a girl liking a boy who somewhat frightened her.  I recall a description of his sweater.

It's never occurred to me to attempt to recapture these fragments, the flotsam of a childhood I bless but am content to know has been decades-since left behind.


And yet.

This past week, I ordered copies of both these books.  The picture of the weir did it - and got me looking, too, at Madeleine L'Engle too (great books, and fantastic, gripping titles).  I went to Amazon to buy the Book of Common Prayer I've had on my list for a bit now - and ended up coming away with these two, too.

Otherwise has arrived already.  It is the same edition I had then; a blue upon blue turquoise cover.  A girl in shorts.  A ghostly reverse image.

I wonder whether generations since my own will ever even have the opportunity for loss like this, the kind of progress through life that shapes my own entire existence, the kind of irretrievability which overrides free will and exerts itself merely by dint of time.  Life isn't the quiet backwater it once was, and I wonder what the experience will mean for my nieces - for the marvelousness that is nostalgia, the beauty of sentiment, with its ghost of melancholy making it such a beautiful feeling.

I try not to feel generationally superior - that These Kids Today have lost the very experience of loss.

But I do wonder.  Ephemerality is at the core of life's urgency and emotionality.  Being able to order up one's own preadolescence for home delivery is both wonderful ... and itself almost wistful.  I won't recapture the girl I was thirty and more years back.

And yet.

I never lost her, either.  She's still such a part of the woman I am day to day.  And if I didn't bless the fact I could give her a little nibble - could find these memories at all - I would not have placed that order.

I believe in the impenetrability of lost youth.  But I also believe in the joyousness of memory.  And reading.

Thank You, Dr. Georges

This week brought perhaps the most interesting Christmas card I have ever received.  Given that my ex husband sends one every year, and I get all manner of cards, from the phamily-foto-newsletter annual to the gigglingly profane to the extremely religious, this is actually something of a feat.

It came in a large white envelope, and felt several pages thick.  I didn't know it was a card - but, from the return address (Dr. Corwin Georges, in the Theatre and Dance department - my major - at my alma mater), I half thought to myself, what is this, are they returning that wretched play I wrote in 1990 or something?  He was chairman of the department, though not my advisor, and I was surprised to hear from them.  My association with the University pretty much ended at graduation, because life has held my attention by force, starting with the recession I graduated into.

So when I opened the envelope, and in fact there was an exam I had taken in 1990 - purple ditto paper, my barely post-adolescent scrawl and all, I was actually kind of blown away.

The card commemorates more than the holiday - it is Dr. Georges' 40th year at the school.  He writes about never thinking this year might come - and about how he has always saved papers, and thought one day he would do exactly this, and reach out to students (I hope he kept it to departmental majors; in such a span, surely there are an abundance of US!), and share some piece of our mutual past.

My own story since then, of course, is that majoring in theater is why I became a writer.  I snarkily say how preferable it is to work alone than with Actors (guys, I actually love ya) - but the fact is, I was as close to a Technical Theater major as the size of the program provided for such specialization.  I worked in the shop the whole time I was there.  I never got cast.  I thought I was a good actor, but the fact is I was simply not.  Though I once performed a scene from The Runner Stumbles, and no less a figure than Milan Stitt told me I should apply at the Yale School of Drama, my failure to figure onstage in any of the productions we mounted during my four and a third years there (we were on terms; not semesters, so - yes - 1/3, not 1/2) was no accident.  I still can't behave naturally in front of people who are there to watch me pretend to do so.

So I tell people I was a technical theater major, though there really was no such thing in my day - I happily recall my memories of casien paint, trying to impress the guy who ran the scene shop, and getting to use the band saw - and I largely push memories of my college years into shadow.  I had a townie for a boyfriend, and I married him.  College, particularly after I met Beloved Ex at age nineteen, was almost as deniable an experience for me as my far-too-preppy high school had been.


And yet.

Dr. Georges' rather wonderful idea filled me with exactly the warmth he had intended.  It reminded me of how kind his colleague, my advisor, was when I was a freshman.  It reminded me of my bosom friend, who shared the program with me during that first year.  It reminded me of the way our ballet instuctor admired the arch of the top of my foot, saying even she didn't have a curve that good, and how dancers want to have that curve.

Certainly, it reminded me of the shop.  That smell of sour milk, the casien paint.  Fresnel lenses, and Lekos.  The dance concerts I ran lights for, and helped to design too.  The old proscenium designed in his earliest years by Kennedy.  The black box theater we used the most; and how hard it was to light, because its ceilings were fairly low.  The drawings I still have, of costume designs for a sort of fantasia faerie for a ballet, and of Banquo's ghost.  Of set designs, or flats, never to be realized (and, as much as my performance, really not that good).  Of my friends.  Yes, I had them.

It reminded me of that last project - a perfectly execrable one-act I wrote, which I pray is LOST to history regardless of that 40 years of saved student work - and how disappointed my advisor and Dr. Georges both were in me.

It reminded me of how much that theater degree serves me in my work every day, and how it informs and shapes my writing.

It reminded me of those chants we used to do - because theater kids need chants and in-things, verbalisms special to ourselves.  Good blood, bad blood, red leather yellow leather.  Or, what a to do to die today at a minute or two to two, a thing distinctly hard to say, but harder still to do, for there'll be a tattoo at quarter to two, a rat-a-ta-tat-a-ta-tat-a-ta-too, and the dragon will come when he hears the drum at a minute or two to to (repeat - louder, and faster, every time) ...

It reminded me how fortunate I am, to have the education I did, and where I got it, and when.

It even reminded me of the day we found out I was not getting even the smallest amount of tuition exchange - a benefit of teaching my father had always counted on - a mere six weeks before I matriculated; and how terrifying, and financially hideous, that was for my family.  Twenty-five years later, that is no less fearful than it was then.

I'm nostalgic.  But not altogether forgiving, or forgetful, it's true.

But.  That was not a decision of this man's making.

I am a professor's kid.  So this card means more to me even than my own little memories.  It reminds me of the briefcase, just eighteen or so feet away from me right now, where resides a collection of dad's pay notifications dating back to the early-mid sixties, when he started with his own University.  It reminds me of the professorial side of the equation - of students remembered, and remarked upon, and so proudly admired. I look at my giant portrait of Einstein, painted by a Physics major, and know its secret; that the Class Notes on the artist are tucked behind the canvas, within the frame.

The return of my ancient test paper (I did score an 89; it was good of the Doctor to think to choose a decent grade) is a unique and winning idea.  I can imagine the effect it would have had on my dad's graduates.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I went to the dentist - a man who had taken a class with dad - and he told me once again the story I know, but never tire of hearing:  how brilliant my father was, and how wise as well.  How good a teacher.

Above all, he would have valued the final compliment.  As his daughter, of course, I am most fascinated by the first.  Reportage of my dad always includes commentary on how remarkable his intelligence really was.  It was part of my life from the first, and so its extremity - and impressiveness - was lost on me, growing up.  We knew him as interested and interesting, a mechanic and carpenter and instructor, a loving parent, a warm and funny man, someone with a streak of mischief ...

Also someone capable of discoursing and maybe even running off on the occasional tangent.  Gee, wonder whether he gave that talent to any of his kids ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

(G-d Rot the/Thank G-d for) BBC/America

They have wiped countless hours of classic British television - including this - but BBC America was good enough to provide this little piece of daily delight:

David Bowie was the second "real" live concert I ever saw.  It was ... overwhemingly good.  Too good for snot-nosed kid I was.  Good enough, though, that the memory retroactively retrofits me to have deserved to see it, now that I can genuinely appreciate it (and it was, after all, only the Serious Moonlight tour - heh).  Bits of it maybe even THIS good.

I caught his towel.

I still have it.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Wishing Life Away

With X as far away as he is ... even having a beautiful home, the best dog in the history of ever, some family - and a job I love ... it is hard, sometimes, not to wish this part would give way to the part where he and I are not so vastly separated.  I realize, he's hardly the first example of this.  All my life, I have spent waiting for the "next part".

An interesting aspect of this is the way it reflects the incredible sense of entitlement and expectation of my culture.  I grew up in a United States in which, by virtue of my birth and education, I presumed it was my right to reach a certain level of socio-economic success.  Heck, it wasn't even so clear a thing as a "right" - it was just this manifest destined given; the spoken *and* implicit evolutionary presumption of American development:  and of my middle class echelon.

The eighties didn't help - nor did the dents in the economy we took with trickle-down and in the 90s.  I simply assumed - for YEARS - I was "paying my dues" and the day was coming I would be more than comfortable.

As it turns out:  I am.  But not because I deserve it "more" - and certainly not because I worked hard for it, for a long time.  I learned how, yes.  I've become a highly accomplished and responsible grownup (even if I refuse to "mature").  But it took *many* years, and is even still a developing tendency.  In my nature, I am an underachiever.

But my refusal to depend on someone else (on a man - or, as much as possible, on my parent(s)) made it an inevitability; I had to sink or swim.  There were no other options; and I found that sinking caused dependencies I turned out to be unfit to tolerate.  So I had to swim.  And I was probably past thirty before I really learned much about how to do this very well.

So, a late bloomer.  The desserts of the kind of entitlement I grew up permeated with.

As proud as I am of the life I've been put in stewardship to live:  I still don't feel I deserve my comfort and success.  Even knowing how many people would pooh-pooh just how "successful" I call myself (she doesn't even have a smart phone - or cable - or a DVR - or a Mac, nor any iDevice of any kind! she drives a car she's paid off, and wears "pre owned" clothing from eBay and thrift stores!), my sense of how abundantly blessed I am is almost embarrassing when I allow myself any perspective at all.  I pay my bills.  I am down to almost no remaining credit debt, and hope to be able to pay it off 100% within two months from now.  I am more than adequately entertained, and materially - even with a couple leaky faucets and floors I dream of having beautifully refinished - is as comfortable as I could dare to ask for.  And, apart from my privilege and education - nobody gave this to me but my blessed ancestry and myself.  The autonomy both resulting in *and* resulting *from* what has been given me is never, ever lost on me.  I am grateful for this perhaps above all other blessings not tied up in the people I love.  And the people I love are deeply entwined with these gifts.

This is the privilege I come from:  that life is so sure to be rich in material and personal blessings, I can wish away the now until my mid-forties, pining away for the "next part" - that part which will be so comfortable, so good, so full of wealth "I can't wait" to get to it ...

This is both the rapture - and the trap - of being a white, middle-class American (of a certain age ... of a certain privilege).

Monday, December 19, 2011


Okay FAIR WARNING to the tender-eared:  this is Mariah Carey singing.  However, the vid has zero to do with her nor her pneumatic enhancements.  It's kind of fun.

Dadgum Plot Bunnies

... and their cousins, the evil burrowing plot groundhog, who gets you thinking about the THIRD work in line after revisions and the WIP.  I did a little reading and got ideas for the wrong book.  Typical ...


Stolen From Leila

But ganked with love, my friend.  Because NONE of us is a pretty, pretty unicorn, and this is entertainingly put.

I probably got more #14s than anything else when I was more actively working the grind.

#14.  "It's Just Not For Me"
You can read that kind of rejection one of two ways: one, your story was good, but just not for that market/editor/moon phase; two, the editor is uncomfortable with truth or doesn’t want to offend anybody and so is gently limping away from saying anything even remotely offensive or controversial.

It was Dream Agent's #11 that brought me back to the drawing board.  The initial "send me your full" came on the strength of QUERY LETTER ALONE - no sample, no bio, no *nothing* but the letter.  I soared.  I've gotten some really nice elevens from agents I met in person etc., but this one was a bare whisper - which yielded me a response of INCREDIBLE depth, consideration, interest, and *conversationality*.  From an agent I have researched and would easily strip my head clean of teeth to work with.

Well, maybe just the fake ones.  But that's the whole frontage of my toothscape, y'all.

So the #11 from Dreamy just about killed me - until I clarified - "I can re-query this with you, yes?" and Dreams said YES.  Oh my achin' head.  Over the moon.  And not "over it" in the bad sense, either.

The detailed-without-being-long-winded critique was spot on, of course, and has been the focus of my revisions (duh).

And just reading the 25 points at the link is firing me up all over again.  I've got GOLD in my wallet.  Gotta bank it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Carytown at Christmas:  perfection.  This is the place you go with friends, and one of them buys you a present behind your back.  This is the place you go with your niece, and laugh at the dachshund sculptures in the window and relax over a sandwich on a golden Friday before she moves far, far away.  This is the place X and I dream of wandering together.  This is the place where you go to the used bookstore and come away with four or five gifts and still feel like you could buy fifty more wonderful things (not all of them for others ...).

This is The Place.  One of the best around.

At Christmas - and year round - it smells beautiful.  It feels so good.  The creaking of old floorboards underfoot.  The fascination of craftsmanship.  The loveliness and liberation of:  *local* commerce.  The joy of food, entertainment - fried pickles - expensive boutiques and (far better still) the Goodwill.  Carytown at Christmas.  Excellent way to spend an afternoon.

And plus - my shopping is finished ...

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I've just written my last checks for 2011, and filled in a couple blanks in my wardrobe, and have a very clear list of things to do tomorrow.  Church first, then the grocery.  Then home, good shoes and jeans, and off to Carytown.  I need to see some men about some horses.  Then wrapping will be the major hurdle remaining.

No housecleaning today, but the place is tidy.  I ought to change the sheets, but laundry probably won't make it to my list.  There isn't much in need of washing right now, and there are enough clean it's not worth doing a whole load for the sheets.

A fresh deadline question about work cropped up in my sore head this morning, but if I've missed it, worry won't help.  With or without that, this week should be quieter than last, and that one ended, at least, if painfully then on a good note.

Tonight, a trim of the bangs and a wardrobe-pull for church, and I will be done.  In the meantime, Clovis has given me a little to do, and no trouble about it.  The dog is wondermous.  Life is quiet.

Wintry Saturday

It's not an exceptionally cold day outside, but the grey sky is nicely evocative of the season, and the light inside now is thin and cool.  No lights on but the tree and the wreath (with a DVD tossing out a little bit of flickering, of course), it is filmic-ly oblique, and parts of the room lie in shadows while here and there a touch of chill sun seems to overexpose and shimmer, unfocused.

The headache is six days old today, but only for two now has it been attacking in earnest.  Right now, not quite drug free but resigned to the uselessness of analgesics, I sit quietly and contemplate the day.  Much movement sets off the throbbing, so I'm unsure how well any attempted housecleaning might go.  It seems a good day for editing and revision.

I'm at a loss right now as to what to attack.  Going front-to-back through the whole manuscript has been a bit of a dangerous method - lending too easily to getting distracted on minutiae - and Leila's big cut is long since taken care of.  I don't seem to know how I want to manage the one messy subplot I know should go - nor where to start with it.  And so my bubbling brain threatens to boil over, and - though I seem to be able to concentrate well enough - I don't know what to concentrate *on*.  Something about that particular mess makes me want to find some other minor note that can be cut, or worked - so I can work on something else, feel success, and be in an accomplished place before getting to the trickier job.

Naturally, the one thing that comes to mind is something I still feel needs *developing* - Clovis' relationships with and the characters of his sons.  Not the right direction, not at this point.  Cutting is the thing to do, not refinement and rebuilding.

So the writer sits.  And blogs.  And pets the best dog in all the world.  And neither writes - nor dismantles previous writing ...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Home, Is My Home ...

X calls it "cheering".

This home is so warm.  It's a shame it doesn't get more visitors.

Upstairs ... Up ... Lit ...

12/14 is the anniversary both of the night my family used to always put up (*and decorate ...) the tree, and the first date Mr. X and I ever had.  Last night would have commemorated 48 Christmases between my parents, and was nine for their daughter.

Last night, I got as far as bringing the tree up, putting it together, and shaping the branches a bit.  This evening, I've gotten it lit.  Something like eight strings of LED lights still doesn't illuminate like the old fashioned big bulbs - but it is a pretty, bright sight.  I've brought dad's ashes in to sit with me.

And now, it's time ... to pull out some of the ornaments we used to have as a family ... to hang the ones given me by friends, neighbors, coworkers, employers ... to choose where the bell will go so it can chime when Siddy brushes by - and hang the glittery Santa ball near a light so it will glimmer.  To breathe.  To change this house.  To think of Christmas.

To be alone.  And think of nights that would have been ... unimaginable.

Monday, December 12, 2011


I spent about a dozen years in the mainstream financial services sector, working both with people who were out to make the most out of every account they could manage, and in the end (toward the 2008 crisis), for those who were saying, "Hey, maybe offering credit to everybody all the time isn't the best idea."

In all those years - not ONE person I ever worked with reached out to me to make a client of me.  Not one of the financial planners I supported ever even *considered* me as a potential client.


I either escaped unscathed - or should feel sorry for those idiots, who didn't understand the service they themselves rendered.  Idnit going to stink for them when the book sells and I retire without any of their help.  Heh.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bats (Literally) Rock

Bats always make me happy.  THIS makes me all goopy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Garbage Out, Garbage Out

In response to a post over here ...

I am sitting here a tiny bit chagrined:  mom and I just recycled your beer bottles - what, two months ago? - when we cleaned the basement.

Yes.  Including those rad ones with the ceramic seals ...

This said, I produce a pretty low pure-garbage output myself (speaking materially, of course - not philosophically), taking out the gi-normous rollaway only once every two months, if even that.  And it is rarely anything like full.  Recycling goes every two weeks, and that is a pretty small container but I don't tend to overflow it nor end up in adjunct piles very often.

Most of my personal trash and recycling output is the mail coming into the house.  Coupons upon coupons for high-packaging-content things I do not buy, services I do not patronize ... advertisements ... offers for credit cards ... loads of mail from a cable company I broke up with something like 14 years and three addresses ago, which just keeps saying "Baby forgive me, please, I'll be so good to you."  If the incoming snail mail is reduced by the upcoming cuts in budget for the USPS, I'd be surprised if my total recycling weren't cut by a third ...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tech II

I can't post anything profound nor considered about what happened today in Blacksburg.  This is what I said at Historical Fiction Online (where someone thought the big deal had something to do with "being in a certain radius of DC).

I heard about it within half an hour of the second murder, and damn near didn't make it through the rest of the day. There is *nobody* around here who doesn't have blood tied to Tech. My parents' first home was on campus; my brother born while they lived there. My dad's orange and maroon graduation stole is upstairs right now; I've had it since his death, and any of this would break his heart.

The massacre was unspeakable. I still remember the Queen of England meeting the families, here in Richmond. It is manifest here EVERY day - ribbon magnets on cars. People have hardly forgotten.

When my coworker told me, I almost broke down in tears. When my boss (not local, but he was in town today) mentioned it casually, I had a hard time responding to him without my voice cracking. I have prayed ... all afternoon.

This is worse than simply appalling. It goes below an emotional, social waterline and cracks something fundamental.


Blacksburg is really nowhere near DC. Today's crimes began with a murder in the parking lot at the University Colosseum, and escalated when, during a routine traffic stop just afterward, the murderer then shot the campus police officer who pulled him over.

Thirty two people died less than five years ago. Too many of those people were *kids*. None of those people, nor their families, could ever have imagined this tragedy.

This happened on campus, involving a campus police officer - in all probability, a man who himself would have been mobilized to the massacre of April 16. That's all it has to have to do with this. It is devastating.

I don't mean to sound pedantic nor nasty. But this has nothing to do with Washington, DC.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Good news can still be depressing stuff.

Do It. I Dare Ya.

Try typing into your browser.  See where it takes you.  (SFW and safe for nieces to ... well, insofar as the GOP goes ...)

Holy frijoles.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Referential Tethers

Historical fiction and sci-fi have huge amounts in common, not least of which is world-building.  The basic point of putting a reader into an alien setting is to take them OUT of the world they're sitting in while reading, watching, listening.  So I am always confounded when an author insists upon pointing out the present day.

I've been sitting here watching "Children of Men" - and this film involves some of the most intense staging I've seen in a long time.  This setting is so finely conceived, calibrated, and realized it is almost a luxury to give over to the film.  Even as harrowing as it is as a place, as a plot - it is so complete you find yourself immersed.  So it is disappointing (for *me*) to find the voyage anchored; to be jerked back to the couch, when the work successfully has me somewhere new, teaching me a place I din't previously know.

The point of sci-fi in particular tends to be to reflect upon our existence - to posit hope, or fear, or question, or maybe even answer.  I know that the point of what I feel is a tether is intended to be a mirror.  It's not that I fail to understand.  But so often, it ends up feeling like name-dropping - or, simply, like something which ideally shouldn't have to be explicit.  I'm distracted when a plot shouts its own point in constant, or heavy-handed symbolism (CoM is doing this a bit), but I can put up with it.  But the present-tether goes even a step beyond this.

To anchor a story in themes of oppression is one thing; to write about the specific oppression - detention of particular people in a particular place and time - quantifies it.  It becomes reportage, and can serve extremely lofty purposes.  "The Crucible" is perhaps the most famous example of this - Salem Witch Trials as McCarthy Hearings.  But "The Crucible" NEVER speaks of the era in which it was written.  And "The Crucible", half a century later, hasn't dated itself.

Children of Men makes a point of mentioning "2003 - that magic time when we didn't know the future was about to happen" or some highly similar statement I'm not going to bother scene-searching to replay to quote accurately.  So watching this flick in 2011, it has already committed to dating itself.

I don't mind this as such, but (a) it does have the effect of destroying my WSD, and of course (b) it makes the DVD market pretty finite for such a film.  Why do studios insist on such self-referentiality, when it actually forces a film into obsolescence?

And why do authors want to date a story a screenplay, a novel?  Or shout at a reader, "YOU ARE **NOT** HERE"?

I know.  I know why.

I just personally don't like it.  So expect from me:  untethered stories.  No anchors for me.  Nor for you.

The tether obligates a story.  Dropping an anchor doesn't just stop me from experiencing a story and its world:  It pins the point very finely.

Ways to Get Things Done

Do not log on to Twitter.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Adverbial Adversarial

A terrifyingly large segment of the publishing industry is flatly, inflexibly *against* the use of (existence of?) adverbs.  It's one of those things I've never understood.  Sure, "I am angry," he said angrily is a poor piece of writing.  But adverbs came into existence in our language for a reason.  They do a job which sometimes can't be done another way as neatly.  Ahem.  "It isn't necessarily so" does not mean the same thing as "It isn't so" - sometimes, adverbs provide important content.

I was really happy to see this, is my point.  It's funny I happened to find this in my Twitter stream just this morning, because I'd been thinking of a post just like the one I'm writing last night before I went to bed - so it's nice to see that no less an entity than Harper Collins chose to Tweet it.

Kevyn Aucoin (RIP) said one that there are NO absolute rules for a makeup artist.  Not one.  Many artists and experts have acknowledged that exceptions make most rules.  I tend to be of this opinion about writing - there is no subject which MUST never be touched - no rule which must never be broken - no way of doing things we must not, cannot try.

In high school, one of my best teachers said we were never to use the words "things" or "stuff."  I refer you to the final sentence in my paragraph above, regarding my adherence to this rule.  Mrs. V. was wonderful and amazing - and the purpose of rules is to teach us something.  But if we never move beyond what we learn in class, our writing will never gain depth beyond what is taught us.  Sometimes, learning must be done by other means than instruction-by-pedagogue.  Several of us chose to respond to Mrs. V. by trying to find ways to use the phrase "stuff of life."  It was the only defense against totalitarianism by someone we loved, and who let us rebel against her in this way because she was no moron.  Her rule did something important for the kids who needed it.  For those of us who pushed at her with a smile ... we learned another way.  And, in my case, I like to think I moved well beyond the need for limiting my concern to the use of elementary terminology.

Adverbs don't just make a sentence memorable, they change its meaning. Sure, there are many times when a more precise verb can narrow the gap in understanding—but some verbs can't be fine-tuned any further. A sigh is just a sigh, but anyone who has ever been in love knows how important it is to distinguish between when she sighs happily and when she sighs otherwise.

This is the role and value of adverbs.  We have adjectives for a reason - modification is *necessary* to our tongue.  True every bit as much of verbs as it is of nouns.  Nouns are not the only parts of speech which can own character so particular it needs to be explicated.  Verbs are not by nature so much more descriptive of themselves than nouns--so it is unfair to deny them the companionship, or support, of adverbial modification.

Less, yes, is always more.  But our language - maybe all language - comes with descriptors for a reason.  Cooking without basil might well ruin dinner tonight.  Likewise, paring creative writing down by removing an entire class of descriptiveness - of *creativity* - lessens what can be done with words.

Why any writer, editor, or agent really wants to see that - I've never properly understood.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Knights Didn't Have It Easy

Turns out, they got hit a lot, and hammered at with swords.  Who knew?

The fascinating thing about an archaeological story like this is the physical extrusion, into our time, of a place so many of us romanticize in one way or another.  This is a man who lived in the world with John of Gaunt, with the storied Katherine Swynford - and the the story-making Chaucer.  This was the time of the Plantagenets, of a boy king, of rebellion and a world changed by plague - the world in which the Church still stood supreme, but was hardly unquestioned.  A Distant Mirror.  An age of chivalry.

Nasty, brutish, and short.

After all, Robert Morley (our skeleton, in the first link) was 5'7".

56 Similes

I've only read seven of these, and am already laughing out loud.  Enjoy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Would the President's Jobs Bill Affect Your Life?

It's not MY life that concerns me; it is the wellbeing of all those lives in my country, which appear to mean nothing to those in power except insofar as they can be duped into voting once again for those who will betray, belittle, and debase them.

Go.  Do.