Monday, April 9, 2018

Time for...

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple of hours drafting a couple of ideas for a post to run today. They weren't quite complete posts, though, because they never are. Even when I really, really work at pre-writing a post, when I sit down on Monday morning to get it done here on the blog, it's never as simple as a straight cut-and-paste job, or just retyping in the blog box what's in the Word box. No, the Word document tends to be a guide, and it takes a surprising amount of brain power to go from even a pretty good draft to a finished blog post. Well, here's where my brain power is at these days:


It's been like this for a while now: posting is never easy for me, but it's become increasingly difficult and that means it's time for a break. I was kind of thinking the entire month of April, but, well, last week was easy. And then you need a post saying it's break time, right? So, here's the official "I'm on break" post. I'll still be around, will still be visiting the blogs I usually visit, I just won't be posting here.*

I should also point out, it's not just the blog. For the last couple of weeks, I've been kind of dragging, my energy levels pretty much bottomed out. I suspect at least some of it is weather related: after having 60 degree weather in the middle of February, March has been shit, quite frankly, and April has not been much better, with limited sunshine and persistent, irritating snow. It's ten degrees outside right now. Ten! On April 9th!

At any rate, it seems like a good time to take a break, and recharge the batteries. The nice thing is, I've got a mini-vacation coming up at the beginning of May, one that is much needed, because April starts the crazy-busy season at work. I'll be back in mid-May, and I'll see you around the blogs in the interim. Enjoy my break!


*Which of course means in a week's time or so I'll have a burning, gotta post it now moment





Monday, April 2, 2018

Reading List, 2018 (Part I)

Howdy, folks. Can't believe we're already in the fourth month of 2018--time is flying! So, here's the list of what I've read so far:

The Education of Dixie Dupree (2016), Donna Everhart. I feel like I know Donna from around the blogosphere. I enjoyed this book, in as much as you can be said to enjoy a book about a girl dealing with sexual abuse from an uncle.

The Girl in the Spider's Web (2015), David Lagercrantz, translated by George Goulding. Shortly after starting, I realized I had never actually read the third installment of Steig Larsson's Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It didn't impact the reading of this all that much. I enjoyed the first two, mostly, but this was a battle.

The House on Hope Street (2015), Menna van Praag.

Vanishing Girls (2017), Lisa Regan. My old blogging buddy scores with another thriller!

The Woman in the Window (2018), A.J. Finn. Agoraphobic alcoholic woman spies on her neighbors. Reminiscent of The Girl on the Train, yet not derivative. I blew through this one in about 24 hours.

Cannery Row (1945), John Steinbeck.

At Heaven's Gate (1943), Robert Penn Warren.

Stone Arabia (2011), Dana Spiotta.

The Great Alone (2018), Kristin Hannah. This felt a little too YA at times for my liking. Nothing against YA, but it's like taking a drink from a glass thinking it's Sprite and finding out it's club soda instead.

Hey, how about that--not a single Stephen King book in the mix!

I feel like there might have been another book between At Heaven's Gate and Stone Arabia, but I can't remember what it was. Nine books in three months is perhaps a little slow; my reading definitely tailed off in March, for reasons I can't explain. (Bruins too busy, perhaps? They've played literally every other day since around March 2, except for the weekend, when they played both days.)

Other things:

-Had an unusual dinner yesterday in which we Skyped the Catbird in from college. Set the laptop up on the end of the table and chatted with her while we ate. It was very futuristic in a 1960s kind of way.

-Last week during a program, I declared the end of winter. Thursday and Friday, I noticed actual, new green poking out through the mud. Yesterday, we had a dusting of snow. Right now, it's about 28 degrees outside. This is upstate New York in April. It's coming, but sloooooooooooow.


That's it for me, what about you? What have you been reading lately?
 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Fire forged

In one of my manuscripts, an unlikely hero steps up in a critical moment and saves his small town from sliding into chaos. Initially, he shrugs it off, telling another character, "Someone had to do something." Later, in a moment of reflection after the dust has settled, he muses over what he's done in relation to a slightly shortened quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Considering the character's pretty unremarkable life up until that point, he's not quite sure where he fits.

Watching the March for Our Lives events--indeed, since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School--I've been wondering about this in relation to the students we've been seeing. Ever since Emma Gonzalez stood before the crowd and cried, "We call--BS!" and stood toe-to-toe with NRA flack Dana Loesch; ever since David Hogg calmly brushed off those who said he was at best coached, at worst, a paid crisis actor. These students have been passionate, intelligent and articulate; they have started a movement that is having real impact. And I can't help but wonder about them: were they always like this? Were they activists? Were they outspoken? Were they the leaders in their school already, members of the student government, captains of sports teams and debate teams, editors of school newspapers, kids that everyone knew? Or were they shy, anonymous, kids that stayed out of sight, out of mind, on the edges of the MSD community, either by choice or circumstance?

The citizen in me applauds them and doesn't care much about what they were, only about what they are, and what they will become. The writer in me wants to know.



Monday, March 19, 2018

Random Thoughts

It's been a tough week, capped off by the long drive to get the Catbird back to school from spring break. Here are some random thoughts:

*Defenestrate is a great word, but, boy is it hard to work into everyday conversation.

*There is nothing more optimistic in this world than a dog.

*Waking up to single-digit temperatures again kind of sucks, but it looks like we're at least going to have a snow-free week.

*I need to find my next writing project.

*The Bruins are doing their best to make a believer out of me.

*Waiting is still the hardest part.

*There is nothing quite like a good bagel in the morning.

*It's nice to have it still light at 7pm, though I'm not crazy about waking up again in the pitch dark.

*Black Panther was a lot of fun.

*It's going to be hard for season 2 of Jessica Jones to top season 1, but two episodes in, they're off to a good start.

*David Byrne sounds like David Byrne--yet he doesn't. I find this video strangely compelling, and the song has been stuck in my head the last couple of days. It's funny how people's voices change as they age.


That's all I've got for today--what's on your mind?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Another day...

...another winter weather advisory.

Roughly a third of the snow that has fallen on my corner of the world has come down since March 1, according to the National Weather Service. It feels like this has been the case for at least the last four years or so. When we moved here 15 years ago, most of the snow fell in January and February, but it's been shifting later and later. As have the seasons in general.

At least this storm doesn't look to be too bad here, just four or five inches. Folks on the coast look like they could  get slammed (again--it's been a tough couple of weeks out there). Hopefully, we won't see a lot of power outages again.

That's about all I got today, sorry to say. My brain appears to be in a bit of a down cycle. What's new with all of you?

Monday, March 5, 2018

In search of judgment

The greatest gift for every writer is judgment--Obari Gumba
 Back in December, Agent Carrie and I had our annual strategy session, where we set the course for the upcoming year. One of the things Carrie wanted me to do, once I was finished writing the first draft of the WiP, was to take a new look at an old project, one long-time readers will be familiar, first as BARTON'S WOMEN, then as POWERLESS. (Quick rundown: this was the project that received the offer of representation from Carrie; it went through several submission rounds before we opted to pull it). The story was deemed by some editors as being a little too dystopian, and dystopia was dead, in the wake of several years of Wool and Divergent and The Hunger Games.

But Carrie had been hearing rumblings, that publishers were opening up again to dystopia, and she encouraged me to take another look and consider potentially revising it and putting it back out there, so I did (take another look at it, that is).

It was a bit of an eye opener.

Last summer, I took an online course through the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop (written about here and here), which is where, in the first week, I encountered that quote from Obari Gumba. There was another quote, from novelist/playwright Kia Corthron that I wish for the life of me I had written down. I thought I did, but I couldn't find it. (I may not have written it down because I think I thought at the time I'd have access to all class materials, including lectures and transcripts, forever; I do not) It went something like this: "The first draft, say your point clearly; say it again a little quieter; say it again a little more subtly still." In other words, subtlety is your friend. Don't spoon feed the readers.

Looking back through POWERLESS, I am amazed (and disturbed) by how obvious and heavy-handed I was, not just with some of "the points" I was trying to get across, but just with character thoughts and emotions. There's a hell of a lot of explaining going on, a hell of a lot of spoon feeding, a hell of a lot of making sure any future readers will get exactly what I was going for, no room for interpretation. There was little subtlety, little good judgment. Ugh.

I'm hoping I've moved past this. Some time in the not-too-distant future, I'm going to crack open the WiP with the responses of beta readers to guide me. What will I find? Spoon feeding? Explanation? Dictation? Or will I find I've exercised judgment, given my readers space to fill in some of the gaps themselves, a demonstration that I've learned something in the last few years? Time will tell, but I know what I'm hoping for.

Have you ever had similar reactions to your past work? Have you found your judgment has improved over the years?
 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hello, Square One

Oh, hello, Square One, I...wasn't expecting to see you here. How are you? It's been a while, hasn't it?

Four years? Really, that long? Time flies, huh? Sorry I haven't kept in touch, you know how it is.

Well. I'd love to stay and hang out, but--

Yeah, sure, we can hang out a little. Catch up a bit, sure, I guess I can do that. Is there anything you'd like to do?

...

Sure. Yeah. I guess we can look at the old spreadsheet. I guess it's around here somewhere...yeah, there it is. Geeze, what a lot of work we put into that, huh?

Yeah, I guess we can update it. Wow, what fun. You really haven't changed much in four years, have you?

Wait, you want to do what? Query writing? I haven't written one of those in...four years. But I do sometimes write query-like paragraphs, so I'm not totally out of practice. Oh, but guess what I still do a lot of? Waiting! Yeah, I'm still pretty good at that.

Well, it sure has been fun catching up with you, Square One, but I'm sure you've got places to be and I don't want to hold you up, so....

Oh, you've got time? Lots and lots of time?

...

Yeah, that's great. Just...great.

***

Welp, as you may have figured out, I am once again agent free. It's a business decision, one of those things that happens from time to time. I want to express my gratitude to Carrie for taking me on, showing faith in me and my work, and working on my behalf, and I wish her well in her new position at Laura Dail Literary Agency.

***

Interestingly, on my way to work on Tuesday (before I became a free agent, so to speak), I heard this song on the radio, and remembered how much I like it, and considered slipping it into a blog post somewhere soon. Now, it's more appropriate (I also think I may have done this once before, but if I did, I didn't tag it specifically, so if it's a rerun....). The song is, when you get right down to it, pretty sad. Chrissy Hynde wrote it shortly after the death of Pretenders guitarist, James Honeyman-Scott from a drug overdose, which itself came about two days after the band fired bass player, Pete Farndon for his drug use. Despite this, I've always found something optimistic and uplifting here, and I'm going to be positive. Hope all is well with all of you, what's new?

 

Monday, February 19, 2018

We've been here before

Recommended reading if you haven't already run across it on Facebook or elsewhere:

Fuck you, I like guns.

I may have said this before, after some other school shooting, or a mass murder in a gay nightclub, or a massacre at a movie theater, but I'll say it again: I'm not anti-gun. I don't want to take your guns away--not exactly. But I do want to see something meaningful happen here. The majority of people in our government are more interested these days in restricting the voting rights of a large segment of our population than giving even the barest hint of increasing control on gun ownership in the slightest. Yes, that's a convoluted sentence; it's supposed to be. It matches the thinking of lawmakers who insist this is not the time to talk about this; of a president who first shifts blame to the community, then to law enforcement, and then manages to make it about himself.

Gun rights have long been seen as a Red vs. Blue, liberal vs. conservative, Republican vs. Democrat issue. It's time to stop thinking about it in party lines. It's time, really, to stop thinking about everything in party lines, because this, I fear, is where the true downfall of our country comes in, but maybe that's the basis for another post, or a stunning piece of fiction. It's time to start thinking about it as a human issue, because that's what it is.

After last week's post, I told myself I wasn't going to be political, and that I was going to write about writing again. Sorry. Maybe next week.


Monday, February 12, 2018

One of the big problems with this country, summed up in a single sentence

According to a story on CNN's website this weekend, during a 2006 meeting with employees angered over a new rule that would force them to share tips with their supervisors, casino mogul Steve Wynn said this in response to a woman who stated the rule would cost her fifteen to twenty thousand dollars a year:

"If $15,000 to $20,000 a year makes that big a difference in your life, you're doing something wrong."

Steve Wynn is worth an estimated 3.4 billion dollars.

There's a lot of people in our government--on both sides of the aisle, but predominantly on the Republican side--who think this way. Back in December, while discussing the elimination of the estate tax (which only impacted individuals worth more than $5.5 million, or couples worth more than $11 million), Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley said "I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it's on booze or women or movies." Nice. Oh, and by the way, Chuck Grassley has an estimated worth of 3.76 million dollars.

The attitude from the likes of Wynn and Grassley is that those who have wealth are deserving or more able than those who don't. I'm not going to doubt that these folks have worked hard, or that they're able. At the same time, as someone who would benefit greatly from an extra $15,000 to $20,000 a year, I'll readily admit to the mistakes I've made in my life that have put me, at times, behind the financial eight ball, starting with a career choice made thirty-plus years ago that set me on the road to being a person who is "doing something wrong." But I've also worked my ass off (and I'm good at my job, dammit) in a field that does not really reward its people with riches, and while I'd like to have a Scrooge McDuck money pit like Steve Wynn and Chuck Grassley and pretty much every appointee and "special advisor to the President" hanging around the White House, it's just not gonna happen. And I'm okay with that. Just don't say I'm worth less because I'm worth less.


***
On a different note, last night the wife and I went to see Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. Very good film. Very much like a Coen brothers film, funny, but also very heavy, and unconventional. Great performances from all, especially Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson. I recommend it.






Monday, February 5, 2018

Musical Monday: Jackie Wilson said what?

It's a Monday, there's something like eight inches of snow on the ground (despite the forecast that told us we'd have half that, at most), and I'm kind of tired and achy, hoping it's not something coming on. So, we'll have some rather chipper music today! About two weeks back, I completely got Van Morrison's Jackie Wilson Said stuck in my head.



But it did get me wondering:  What did Jackie Wilson say? According to Van Morrison, it was 'Reet Petite', whatever that meant. But since Morrison has a rather...unique...vocal style (as my wife says, "He swallows his words," which is a pretty apt description), what you hear may not come anywhwere close to reality. After all, for years I thought the chorus line in Jackie Wilson Said went either "What did Billy want" or "Bop en diddy wah" when it's really "I'm in heaven when". So, I did a little searching.

Turns out, Jackie Wilson really did say "Reet Petite"! Reet Petite (The Sweetest Girl in Town) was Wilson's first solo hit way back in 1957, and got a second burst on the charts almost thirty years later, when the following, somewhat bizarre) video was made (three years after Wilson's death).



Well, that's it for me. Just about time to go and shovel. How's things by you all?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Thoughts on Sleeping Beauties, Part I

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the Netflix series, Godless, a good show on many levels but one that fell far short on living up to the promise of its preview, which looked to be a lot more woman-driven than it turned out to be. This week, I'm finally coming back to Sleeping Beauties, a 700+ page fantasy/horror novel by father-and-son combo Stephen and Owen King, a book I've been turning over in my mind quite a bit as I've thought about this particular post.

The basic premise of Sleeping Beauties is fairly simple: a mysterious 'flu' spreads across the world. Any female, from the tenderest infant to the most withered hag who falls asleep is quickly enshrouded in a cocoon of some mysterious substance. They're still alive, but woe to the person who removes the cocoon: doing so causes the woman to turn into something like a murderous zombie who destroys the fool who opened the cocoon. Having dispatched the offending sap with whatever is at hand (including hands, teeth, a rock, whatever), she falls back asleep and is re-wrapped. What is the world to do?

The sharp-eyed critic of media and society that lives in my house (aka, The Magpie), kind of sneered at the book when she saw that I had it, having heard of its premise on line and having read some reviews. When presented with this bare bones outline, it sounds inherently misogynist. Yet King the Elder at least has never shied away from putting women in starring roles (heck, his very first novel had women in pretty much every important role), and he is quite capable of delivering fully-fleshed out women who are not just damsels in need of man for either rescue or a good lay, or to serve as the sacrificial lamb to spur the hero on to Great Deeds. There are plenty of the latter in his books, to be sure, but not all of his heroines quite fit this mold.

And there's hope at the outset for Sleeping Beauties. The action centers on the down-at-its-heels town of Dooling, West Virginia, and Lila Norcross, town sheriff, and her husband, Clint, who is the psychologist at the nearby women's correctional center. When the story opens, Lila is coming home from a night shift while Clint is about to leave for work. Lila, who is brooding over a particular problem in her marriage, is just about to fall asleep when she gets an urgent call. She spends the first half of the book waging a heroic battle to stay awake and keep order in a rapidly unravelling situation. Predictably, the men of the world--and Dooling--start to come unhinged as the women of the world conk out and get cocooned.

As writers, we're told that one of the things that makes for a strong character is agency, namely, that the character makes choices and decisions based on his or her motivations and desires, and that these actions change the world around them. Without giving too much away (I hope), it's ultimately the women of Dooling who hold the fate of the world--our world, as we know it--in their cocooned hands. The Kings take a great deal of time (too much time, in my view) exploring SPOILER the Man Free version of Dooling that the women of the town find themselves in.END SPOILER The choice the women make, and how they make it, takes a back seat to the action taking place in the man's world.

And that's part of what disappointed me. Despite the huge amount of page time Lila Norcross gets, this is really her husband's story. Clint Norcross has a backtory, one that includes living in The Most Awful Foster Home Ever, which drives so much of his behavior. Lila, on the other hand, seems to have been born Sheriff of Dooling and Wife of Clint. We never really get to know her, not in the depth that we get to know Clint, anyway. In fact, we get more backstory on a lot of the side characters than we get on Lila, and that's too bad.

OKAY, this little post is already too long and I have more to say on this book (some of it good), but it's going to have to wait for next time. How's things by you?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Thoughts on 'Summit Fever'

Last week over at Writer Unboxed, Annie Neugebauer wrote about the perils of 'Summit Fever,' a condition in which mountaineers allow the desire to reach their goal--the top of the mountain--to supercede good judgement in getting there (and back down again) safely. If the mountaineers are lucky, they make it safe and sound and maybe have a good story to tell around the campfire that night. If they're not so lucky, they end up the objects of a search-and-rescue, end up in the hospital, or maybe even dead.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a mountain climber or even a very intuitive group of writers to see where I’m going with this, does it?" Ms. Neugebauer said, and I nodded as I read, because I knew exactly where she was going. Or so I thought. Turns out, I was wrong, because Ms. Neugebauer took the discussion in a completely unexpected direction (for me), as she started talking about burnout, because, "right behind that peak you’ve been headed for is another one. It’s higher, prettier, and juuuuust out of reach."

It certainly makes sense, because we're always chasing peaks, aren't we? Writing the next story, landing the agent (for some), landing the publishing deal or publishing yourself--there is always another peak. I understand Ms. Neugebauer's point, and I agree, but it's still not what I was expecting, because for me, Summit Fever is something different.

As I came into December, I was working on a second draft of the WiP. I had hopes of finishing it by Christmas, in part so I could give it to my wife to read (though in that case I might not have taken all of Christmas week off, because it's still hard to be around when she's reading my work, I don't know why). But life and a troublesome spot in the manuscript got in the way. Between Christmas shopping and decoration and picking up the Catbird at school and Christmas itself, and a snag that I spent a good three days working through, I didn't get it done. But I got closer. And when I passed the 350-page mark (out of 470-something pages, and shrinking by the day), Summit Fever started kicking in. By the time I crossed page 400, the fever was raging.

What does Summit Fever look like? Well, think about that three-day delay in December while I worked out a problem in the page 100s. I went through it a bunch of times and, even after thinking I'd fixed it for good went back to it one more time and fixed it some more. But, when I added a few things in the page 380-range and made some not-insubstantial changes in the post-400 section, I barely took a second glance, even though I knew it would not be as polished as other parts of the manuscript, and might have some glaring errors as a result. Why? Summit Fever. As I got closer and closer to the end, like mountaineers pushing toward the summit long after they should have turned back, I got more and more careless. And last night, my wife told me, "You have the same scene in two different places." I gave myself a 'Gibbs slap.' Summit Fever had caught me again.


I know what the solution is, of course. Like any fever, a good cure for Summit Fever is bed rest. Let the manuscript sit, let the fever burn down, then take another look. But for me, at least, Summit Fever is almost irrestible. Maybe next time I'll beat it.

What about you? Do you suffer from Summit Fever? How do you cure it?
 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Godless: Opportunity Missed

A couple of months ago, The Wife made me and The Magpie watch a trailer for a new Netflix show that was soon to be airing. Pretend for a moment you have neither heard about nor seen trailer or the show itself, and watch the trailer (just under two minutes):


I'm not necessarily a "Western Guy," but this made me sit up and take notice. Not just because it's a well-crafted trailer (it is), but also the concept, as presented here. You'd be forgiven if you did what I did and thought, "Whoa, an Old West town full of nothing but women trying to hold back the world of men! Count me in!"

On the surface, that's exactly what it is. La Belle, New Mexico lost almost all of the town's men "in five minutes" as the trailer tells us, in a mining accident. Two years later, only a handful of men are left, and we see the women making decisions for the town and doing things like rebuilding the church, which burned down (La Belle had a run of bad luck, it would seem).

There are interesting women doing interesting things. Outside of town, there's Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery, and it took me a long time to realize she played Lady Mary on Downton Abbey), running her ranch with her Paiute mother-in-law and her teenage son (Alice's husband was one of the few who did not die in the mine; he was shot in the back on the streets of La Belle, so she is not exactly tight with the ladies of La Belle). There's Maggie MacNue (Merritt Wever), who now wears her dead husband's clothes, can outdraw the deputy, and thinks things are running just fine, thank you very much. There's the town whore turned schoolmarm (Tess Frazer), and the high society lady, Charlotte Temple (Samantha Soule), who hopes to turn the town's fortunes around. These are capable women who have endured a terrible tragedy, yet they stayed on when there was really nothing left for them to stay for.  They persist, and their stories are interesting and deserve to be told.

Yet, if you actually watched Godless, you'd know that the music that should have been playing during the trailer is James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," because at it's heart, Godless is a story about men. Most specifically, it's about the relationship between the awful Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his wayward adopted son and protege, Roy Goode (Jack O'Connell), with a sidehelping of disgraced La Belle Sheriff Bill McNue trying to redeem himself. Seriously, at the outset, it looks like Bill's sister would make a better sheriff.

It's a good story, and it's (mostly) well-told, though there is an awful lot missing, and not just about the ladies. There's a lot of stuff dangled about Bill McNue that is never really resolved. The acting is high quality and the atmosphere is fantastic (though I will say some of the action in the climax looked a little cartoony and reminded me of some bad kung fu film I saw long ago. I also could have done without the obligatory romance between two characters, and the even more obligatory rape back story of one (of the characters). I enjoyed watching Godless overall, and would recommend it, though this is definitely a case where the trailer is misleading.

What about you? Did you watch Godless? What did you think?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Weekend Update: (Temporary) End of the Cold edition

Greetings, all. Woke up this day to a welcome sight: the mercury in our outdoor thermometer was above zero, which it hasn't been before sunrise in close to a week. Not that you can feel it, mind you; took the dog out and was surprised at how cold it felt, courtesy of a decent breeze coming up the hill. But I'm buoyed by high temperatures that, by Wednesday, are supposed to be pushing fifty. Unseasonably warm, as they say. I wonder if all the folks who have spent the last week sneering, "So much for global warming" will apply that same (flawed) logic to this week, or if they'll suddenly (correctly) say, "Don't confuse climate and weather."

I'm equipped to deal with this weather. This Christmas, I got a new hat to replace one I got probably our first Christmas in this house, since the fur was kind of falling out of the old one. When I put the hat on on Christmas morning, the Catbird said I looked like Vlad the Impaler. I'm not sure how I should take that.


"And who knows which is which, and who is who?"*

While I don't generally make resolutions (and didn't this year), I did want to get better about setting up blog posts ahead of time. When I expected to be done with the WiP by Christmas, I thought I'd be able to use writing time that week to get a head start on 2018 posts. Problem: I didn't get done with the WiP by Christmas, or by New Year's. In fact, I didn't get done with the WiP until this weekend (Yay, me!), though there are a couple of things bugging in the back of my head about the WiP, so I might need to go back and make some more changes before setting it sailing off to the Wonderful World of Betas. Back to the blog, though: I did start working on a post for today, but I fizzled out. Figuring I had enough of a base to be able to write on the fly this morning, I left it last night, but the brain power is a little low this morning, so you're getting yet another of these generic update posts. Maybe next week.

Last night, something unexpected appeared in my Facebook feed, a grant opportunity for New York state artists. They call it a fellowship, but it's basically a grant. No age requirements, no "Must have been/must not have been published" requirements, no requirement that you spend the money on an expensive retreat in the woods or anything. I can do this! It doesn't necessarily get me published, but it could get me a chunk of money ($7000), and that would certainly be nice and supportive. Deadline is January 24, so if you are living in the great state of New York and you're an artist, look into it, and good luck! Many of you live in other states (if not other countries!), but I expect your state (or province, or country) has something similar. Ever apply for one? Ever win one? 

Time for some music. Haven't  done this in a while. Bob Weir wrote a lot of weird songs with strange time signatures. This is one (two?) of them, written in 7/4 time. John Perry Barlow, Weir's primary songwriting partner, wrote a lot of songs about obsessive love--though when it comes to the point of obsession, you can argue that it's no longer love. "Lazy Lightning/Supplication," as performed at San Bernardino in January, 1978, will either wake you up or put you to sleep. Have a great week, all!


*From "Us and Them" by Roger Waters and Rick Wright

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year and Old Business (Reading List, Part IV)

Well, good morning, and welcome to 2018, I hope it's a good one for you. Thank you to all of you who come by and spend a few minutes every week with me, and especially those of you who regularly have something to say. I always aim to give you something to come here for, and it's nice to know I'm not just shouting into the void (though I don't think I usually shout).

Speaking of that, early this morning, i.e., at the stroke of midnight, the Catbird and I continued what was a long tradition in my household. After saying "Happy New Year" and giving hugs and kisses, we stepped outside with a couple of pots and wooden spoons and bashed away. When my family did this back when I was a kid, we weren't the only ones to do it: we had a lot of Brooklyn and Queens people who had moved out to Long Island living around us, and it was fun to hear banging and clanging coming from up and down the block. I *think* I heard someone up hear do it once, some years ago, but it might have been the echo from me. Fun to do, even if it was really effing cold.

Took the dog out at 6 am into a morning that was like crystal. Navy blue sky. Lots of stars. Big, just-past-full moon low in the west. It was beautiful. I judged it to be about -14. The thermometer on the back of my house said -24. The National Weathe Service says -10, but their station is 20 miles away, and is at a lower elevation. Either way, it's effing cold. But still beautiful.

I've been off for the last week and a half, courtesy of excess vacation time, a holiday, and a boss who recognizes all the extra hours we put in throughout the year. It's been really nice to be home so much--and I've been hard at work on the WiP. I failed in my goal to have this draft done by Christmas, and I failed at having it done by the end of the year (holiday shopping/prep got in the way, as did a section or two that needed more work than I had initially thought). Right now, I stand at about 52 pages from the end. I don't know if I can make it today, but it should certainly be done by the end of the week. That's a good way to start off a new year!


And now, because this post is already longer than I expected, old business: I give to you the Reading List, Part IV:

Beauty Queens (2011), Libba Bray. Inspired to read this by the news of the all-female remake of Lord of the Flies. Fun at times, but a little heavy-handed in its messaging, and I'm not a fan of books that work at being overly-clever. Then again, I'm not the target audience. It was enjoyable.

Gerald's Game (1992), Stephen King. I haven't read this in a long time. Better than I remembered, though the link between it and Dolores Claiborne was just weird, man.

The Time Traveler's Wife (2003), Audrey Niefenegger. I wish I'd written that!

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (1995), Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Research for the WiP. Probably should have picked something a little newer, but it was an impulse selection at the library.

Sleeping Beauties (2017), Stephen and Owen King. Heavy-handed in its messaging, overly-long, and I'm not sure it really did what the Kings wanted it to do...though, then again, maybe it did. I may have more to say on this in an upcoming post.

All Backs Were Turned (1965), Marek Hlasko, translated by Tomasz Mirkowicz. I think I came across this on some list like "20 Novels Everyone Should Read." Not sure I would agree with that assessment.

So, for the fourth quarter of 2017, I only read 6 books, which is a little low for me, but I was busy with revisions (RiP and WiP), holidays, etc. The total for the year: 31 books, total, down from 42 last year, and there were a lot of re-reads in there. I'll break down the list a little more in a future post, but it's safe to say, I'd like to up my reading.

That's it for me, hope you had a safe start to 2018 and that the year brings you good things!