Sunday, March 31, 2013

On Derek Walcott and Inspiration

I went to see Derek Walcott read.

He came to my alma mater, and it was a nice excuse to get out of work for a day (because everything in the world I want to do typically happens within my working hours).  I confess, I was largely unfamiliar with his work, though that was all right; he read from his most recent book, White Egrets.

I was interested to learn, during the introductory speeches, that Mr. Walcott actually had something of a long relationship with Hartwick College. He'd written a play, Ghost Dance, for the Cardboard Alley Players, directed in 1989 by Duncan Smith, who was still in the theater department at the time of my attendance. I wasn't a theater person, not really; I auditioned for things, I knew a lot of theater people, I belonged to CAP freshman and sophomore years (interestingly, the slogan on our t-shirts was "Get off your high horse and ride the pony"). Rubbing shoulders with fame and all that (history? Giants?)

I took notes through the reading, because I thought I'd be a good doobie and blog about it. Of course a number of weeks has passed, and of course my notes are nearly incomprehensible. I got down something of a "set list", but since he read only from White Egrets, it's unnecessary to relate here. It was my first real poetry reading, and it was interesting for a number of reasons. The college president, newly elected a couple of years ago, gave a speech that could literally have preceded any "creative" visitor. One of my former writing professors gave a considerably better one, having (one assumes) previously interacted with Mr. Walcott.

When Mr. Walcott read, he did so in a straightforward manner. He paged through to the poems he was going to use, did not patter in between, and engaged in no theatrics. He made the occasional wry comment; "As you get older, you write more elegies." When he came upon yet another, he said "Oh, here we go." It was a situation in which most of the room seemed not to know if it was permissible to laugh. I did.

There was a short question session before they let him off the stage. One professor I did not take classes with went on about his use of light in his poems, and asked about painters he admired. One student said that she was interested in poetry again, because of him. One student asked where he got his inspiration, which gave me pause.

We're in the room with a Nobel prize winner, having just heard scraps of wonderment from his lips, and you're asking him about inspiration?

I wonder if some people think inspiration is a rare beast, the white whale that we Ahab writers quest after across the years, braving storm tossed seas and certain death in order to fling that harpoon and yes, finally find flesh. I wonder if some people are enamored with the idea of writing, but don't much write themselves, and hold dear to their breast the idea "If only I had the inspiration." I wonder if some people never write at all, only read, and wonder at these bright things writers put on the page, these bits of sea glass that we cannot recreate, only pick up and wonder at in the sun. I say all of this not to make fun, but in wonderment of my own.

Mr. Walcott's answer was the beauty around him. He came from Saint Lucia, a beautiful place, still a young place finding its voice, and how such a thing was very fulfilling.

One of the last questions was a young man, asking Mr. Walcott's advice to young writers. In another moment of muted laughter, Derek Walcott deadpanned "Don't do it." After we quieted, he said "No, I don't mean that. The elation you feel, you still have it. But you should learn humility. Don't be arrogant, or suicidal."

Saturday, March 30, 2013


Look, a Fifty Shades Generator! (totally raunchy and ridiculous and NSFW or whatever the hell. But if you're online at work, I salute and envy you. I can kind of go online at work, but it's mostly to look at stuff on Amazon [for when people are all "I'm looking for a book. I don't remember the title or author. The cover might be blue? It came out last year. Maybe it has 'nights' in the title'?" Some of these I magically know {the above is Blue Nights, by Joan Didion}, but seriously people? If you don't remember anything about it, how the fuck do you know you want to read it? Pick something else! AT RANDOM. It'll be just as good. Or bad. {But that reminds me, I wanted to read Slouching Towards Bethlehem by her. So thanks, guys!}])

(You can rent paperbacks on Amazon? Oh what the hell. Go to the fucking library.)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Query Quandry

So, as it turns out, writing a novel isn't enough. You then have to write a letter that hooks an agent into wanting to read your novel, love it, and want to send it to an editor who then also reads it and loves it. Ideally (I hear tell) this letter ought to be 250 words or less.

I didn't realize this would be harder than writing the novel itself.

It's soooo harrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

And humble too

I was watching a somewhat recent episode of Supernatural, and in watching the introduction, said SPOILERS "I'll bet this episode is about the golem." SPOILERS. I was right. So then I said "I'm so smart!"

My fiancé, from the next room, said "And humble, too!"

I thought about it for a moment. I even paused the show (oh, Internet, how I love thee!). Then I said (paraphrased, as this was a couple of weeks ago) "Why should I be? If I know about something, should I pretend I don't? What's wrong with being happy about being smart and/or knowing something?"

I mean, I get it. Bragging isn't cool. And I wasn't mad at my fiancé, certainly, just bemused.

Recently, I've been witness to a fair bit of drama on a Doberman message board (yeah, that's right. Doberman drama. Ugh.) and on the Facebook group associated with it. I was amazed, and dismayed, to see a particular member castigated because 1. she posts unsolicited advice and 2. has a high IQ. If you're posting on a public board on the Internet, you get what you get. Advice, abuse, memes about llamas, pictures of ducks, whatever. That's the way it is. But to be mad at somebody for being smart? Seriously? "Your grammar is better than mine so I hate you?" I don't get that. "How can you possibly know stuff about all these things?" I don't get that either. You don't know how old this member is. You don't know what they went to school for. Shut your hole.

I don't get people being mad at others for knowing things. I can see being frustrated at not knowing where the conversation is. I've been there myself, having voluntarily removed myself from the World of Warcraft playing world. I just didn't care about it anymore. Of course, my fiancé and many other friends are in a guild together, and other friends are in yet another guild, and they're all raiding, and there are all kinds of patches and updates and a new expansion....and I just go to a different place in my head. Because I'm a writer and I can do that. And because I'm just one person; there are times I've shut down a conversation because I didn't care, but that's really not fair to everybody else. I've also cautioned people to "keep their WoW out of my D&D!". But it's still a common ground; we still all mostly know the terminology.

I can be a know-it-all, I know. There are times I stomp over somebody conversationally, and it's not even on purpose. I just get so excited sometimes with the fact that I know the answer (like, "Oh me! Me! Pick me!") Or this thing is so cool I need to say it too. Right now. It's something I need to work on, the interrupting. I don't do it because I think I know better (well, not all the time. Sometimes I interrupt if I feel somebody is saying information that is patently false). Sometimes I just do it because there's something about that little drawbridge that's supposed to keep the words in and let other people take their turn that's broken in my head, and I need to fix it. Stem the tide, if you want to mix metaphors.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Fiancé: I need to put a wifebeater on and start slapping Jen to keep her from talking back
Me: I don't know if that'll work.
Fiancé: What, putting the wifebeater on? I've done that before
Me:  Keeping me from talking back. We know it's impossible for me to keep my mouth shut. Well, that's not true. I have a low success rate for keeping my mouth shut.
Fiancé: I don't know. Slapping you might work.
Me: Or it might just be hot.
Fiancé: I don't know, if we're getting all Streetcar Named Desire--
Me: Will you be calling me Stella? Can my new name be Stella?
Fiancé: You're ruining this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

What's your legacy?

A pet peeve of mine (and by "pet peeve", I mean something that has potential to send me into a ranting froth rage that nobody else cares about) is when an author writes somebody else's work. I'm not talking about plagiarism; I'm talking there even a word for it? Completionism? (Google says no. It also says "else's" isn't correct.)

An example: Frank Herbert wrote Dune. He created Arrakis, wrote six books pertaining to it, of varying quality (At the very least read Dune, if you have not). But those are, without question, Frank Herbert's. Frank Herbert passed away in 1986. Then his son, Brian Herbert, came along with Kevin J. Anderson. Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson have produced a number of Dune books that I'm not even going to count. I've heard tell that he had permission from his father, and I will tell you I don't give a single fuck. Because those are not his words. They are certainly not Kevin J. Anderson's words (and I'd in fact have more respect for Brian Herbert were he to have continued his father's legacy by his lonesome).

Another: Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010. I wasn't terribly familiar with his works, having only read (yet enjoyed) Appaloosa. However, there are a number of people finishing Robert B. Parkers' series: Robert Knott, Ace Atkins, Michael Brandman. Maybe he wanted this to happen. Maybe he sold the writes to the characters. But it's weird. To me. From my side of the library counter, patrons aren't so pleased with this change in authorship. They wanted Parker's characters to be Parker's characters, not belonging to Knott, or Atkins, or Brandman. They're not concerned with copyright or anything like that, that I can tell. They're just concerned with the characters they once knew are not quite the same people.

The list could go on. Erik Van Lustbader with Robert Ludlum's books. Dirk Cussler with Clive Cussler's books. I fully confess my ignorance to the wishes of these authors. Maybe they didn't care. Maybe the ones whose sons have taken over gave the reins with well wishes and fondness in their hearts, that their sons carried on their legacy.

Do you ever wonder about your legacy? Are you published? Unpublished? I heard tell (perhaps apocryphally) that Emily Dickinson wished her papers burned upon her death. So private that she wouldn't even allow her doctor entrance to her chambers, she had any number of tiny book bundles of poetry that she'd sewed together. That somebody picked the stitches out and shared with the world.

Was this right?

Would Jane Austen have enjoyed peoples' interpretations and reinterpretations of her characters? Would she have cared?

Would Margaret Mitchell have cared that two different people wrote two very different companions to Gone With the Wind (one being Scarlett, by Alexandra Ripley, authorized by the estate and not so bad. The other was Rhett Butler's People, by Donald McCaig which I found ridiculous and didn't like at all though I wanted it to be not bad)?

Would Daphne DuMaurier have objected to two very different companions to Rebecca, one a direct sequel and one a bit more removed (Mrs. DeWinter, by Susan Hill and Rebecca's Tale, by Sally Beauman . The latter I quite enjoyed. The former was a bit too Patricia Highsmith in its building of dread in a helpless situation.)

I have any number of stories, half written, finished, barely started. I have a number of completed novels, and a number of partially finished ones, or opening gestures. Few of them have been seen by anybody, for any number of reasons: nobody asks. Or they ask and never read it. Or I ask and they never read it. Or I don't think it's good enough to see light of day. Or it's personal. Or my household really respects privacy. Or my filing system is entirely inscrutable.

Whatever the reason, should my "papers" (i.e., electronic files) be stumbled upon, and then organized, and then published, is that my legacy? What would it say about me? Albert Camus' last novel was published, unfinished by him though somewhat edited by his children. I found it unreadable, and felt they should have just left it in whatever trunk they found it. Something like that does no justice to the writer who went before, and to the work that they brought to the world. It's a shame, and I feel like Camus would have been embarrassed by it. Or maybe he wouldn't have.

But, bottom line? I don't care of the manuscript is in your hands. If it isn't yours, it isn't yours.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

P-p-p-polka face?

Fiancé: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say your Puma Face is different from your Poker face. Which is also different from your Polka Face.

Oh God, Polka Face does exist. We had no idea.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Brawny Betrayal

So, I came upon a disturbing trend in the paper towel aisle at the grocery store.

Evidently, the latest trend is to make the rolls bigger, and then print the "equivalent" on the plastic packaging. The entire aisle, not just one brand, was full of this crazy math: 2 rolls = 5! 8 rolls = 12! Now, I may have stopped being so good at math by the time I hit high school, but this is dangerous thinking here people. You know what two rolls of paper towels are? Two rolls. If they're bigger, it just means I'll use more. It doesn't mean that, in my eyes, it's twice as many. Especially when you're paying more than a dollar per imaginary roll. I'm not going to pay $5 for three rolls of paper towels that are magically 5! This center cannot hold, people!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bonjour, je m'appelle

So, names are an interesting thing. They can be more difficult than I'm strictly happy with.

I don't even mean character names, though that's true too. Starting a new D&D or White Wolf game, I frequently have no idea what to call my character. I run through the options of things that will get made fun of, or get related to things that I have no intention of connecting. If I add a last name, I have to say them a bunch of times, to make sure they don't have a stupid rhythm or something. It's horrible.

But. Then there's my name. This blog is under Jennifer R. Donohue, because that's what my very first gmail address is. I linked it to that one, seeing as how it's my real name and all. It's what my signature is. But really, nobody calls me Jennifer. If they do, I'm in trouble, or we're strangers. Or it's a police officer, the double header of the former and latter.

I never had any kind of cool nickname. We've got friends who have been effectively rechristened, some of whose real names I don't even know (or didn't for a really long time). But I've always been Jen. After a certain age, that is. With my family, I was Jennie for a really long time (I imagine I still am, but I get "Jen" now too). I don't remember what my friends in elementary school called me. I don't think teachers called me Jen or Jennie; that was probably Jennifer too. In French class, other than Freshman year when I picked Brigitte because I thought it sounded cool, my "French name" was Genvieve. You know. Jennifer. As opposed to my friend Lennon's name, which was Napoleon. Or it was by the time I had French class with him; I'm not sure if it was all along. It's actually kind of funny when I mention to people that I had a friend in high school who I called Napoleon, but whose real name was Lennon; they assume "Lenin", you see, which is it's own can of worms.

So, when I'm commenting on other blogs, or even dreaming about my name on that book cover, what am I thinking of? Jennifer or Jen? Jen would be a boon at book signings, certainly (AIM HIGH), but I really do like the way I write my letter f. Is that enough of a reason? Probably not. Jennifer is a fine name, a good name, but it feels like my dress-up name, my be an important grown up name. Not my kick off the shoes (which I always do) and get comfortable name, or my play pretend name, or my dog owner name even. My name is my name, and I have no other (we're not even going to talk about Internet handles.....). It's just a matter of choosing which one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole; Or, the perils of Internet Diagnosis

Lately, I've been having an issue with my fingernails being weirdly brittle. I'm one of those "I broke a nail!" kind of gals; never have been, and still haven't developed it, even with my recent makeup epiphanies. So, like any Citizen of the Internet, I Googled it.

(Not my image, but rather a t-shirt that you can buy on McSweeny's. Maybe you should. I can wait.)

Most New Jersey ever? Well.....

So, I was on the Internet, as one does, and I found a Buzzfeed link to the 22 Most New Jersey Songs of All Time. This was subtitled "surprisingly, they're not ALL by Bruce Springsteen." Why yes, I was surprised. Being from New Jersey, I was excited and hesitant to peruse the list.

I don't know a lot of the songs. Never heard of the band (group? What are kids calling them these days? Ensemble?), never heard of the song, never heard the song itself. Real Estate? Who the hell are they? "Surburban Dogs" isn't a bad song; perhaps it will even grow on me. But, as you can imagine, it does not evoke my home state for me.

(picture from Wikimedia commons)

And Lauryn Hill is right out.

I do appreciate that there is a band called Titus Andronicus, and I think "In a Big City"is the most successful song for me in the list of "what the hell is this?!" songs, but it could be for the line "deluge of hipsters". Because seriously, hipsters.

They do say "Bruce Springsteen's entire catalog, basically", but then go to name 3 songs: "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)". Okay, good. Yes. "Atlantic City". YES. "Born to Run". Oh HELL yeah, preach it!

.....but then that's it. I mean obviously, Bruce Springsteen is New Jersey's patron saint in my eyes. Thunder Road, Spirit in the Night, Jungleland, all of it. But only three Bruce Springsteen songs get mentioned by name, while two of Bon Jovi's do? Bon Jovi just isn't as evocative for me. I'm sorry. Well, I'm not. This is my blog and I'll say what I want.

(picture from Wikimedia Commons)

I guess it would be a boring list if it was 22 Bruce Springsteen songs about New Jersey. I get that. But why both with a list that's the Most ___ of ALL Time? Did they consult anybody from New Jersey? I'm not just being picky; people commenting on the post are pretty much all "hey, what about...?"

However, all is not lost. In the sidebar was 13 Things About Rainbow Brite You'll Now Find Hilarious.  Because I'm a recalcitrant bitch, I thought

But, some of the things in that list were, in fact, really funny. And then I discovered THAT YOU CAN HAVE A RAINBOWBRITE.ORG EMAIL ADDRESS and was at the same time flailing and also paralyzed with glee. So, it balances out. Like when Osiris measures your heart against a feather, and Ammit the Destroyer gets to eat it, or not.

(interestingly, Michael the Archangel is also said to weigh the souls of the dead)

Hmm. Or maybe they don't win. They seem to think people have forgotten Celebrity Deathmatch. Seriously? Who do you talk to? Were they born in the 90's? Is that it?

Maybe I'm just addicted to list posts and need to be done. Or done with Buzzfeed. I'm going back to

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quotable Quotes from everyday life....

Fiancé : I didn't think about Britain having trains. You can hit one side of your island with a spitwad, I didn't think they needed trains.
Me: Britain....Britain has trains.
Housemate: it's their primary means of transportation
Friend: Or, you know, cars.
Fiancé : Hatchbacks with Union Jacks on them.
Me: Coelacanths!
Housemate: .....those aren't for driving.
Me: *laughing madly*
Friend: Are you talking about the armored fish?
Me: yes!
Fiancé: Damn it.

Friend: So it's 8, 7, 6
Friend:...that's "867"
Me: It's not my fault you're dyslexic.

Friend: I've been craving calimari
Fiancé: Ew
Me: Shut up, it's one of the only seafoods I like!
Fiancé: That's not seafood
Me: Of course it's seafood, where the fuck else does it come from?
Fiancé: Between the stars!
Me: You don't eat that, it makes you go mad
Fiancé: Same thing.
Friend: Pretty sure you could eat both.
Fiancé: You deep fry Cthulhu, you get buffalo wings too. That's a lot of oil.

Me: Well, I'll be at work. We can put a time release hot dog on your doorknob and Elka can wake you up.
Fiancé: Time release hotdog? I'm so glad that you have no command of science.
Housemate:  No, it's not a bad idea. We could make it work.
Fiancé: Don't ever let her know that her ideas have merit.
Me: See, Housemate supports me!
Fiancé: I think my brain shrank three sizes that day.
Housemate: And whose fault is that?
Fiancé: the hotdogliness

Fiancé to the dog: You're in the way, Doberthing.
Me: D-d-d-Dobrthing, Doberthing. Can't see through, can't see through my Doberthing!
Fiancé: ....what the fuck.
(To be fair, even the dog looked at me funny. But, I normally sing "Boogerface" to her)

Library patron: I need a kids historical fiction book like this, but that takes place during World War Two.
Coworker: Well, I know we have a Pearl Harbor one, but that isn't World War II, is it?
Library patron: Oh, isn't that World War I?
Me: Pearl Harbor was World War II. Pearl Harbor was when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii? Triggered American involvement?
Coworker: It's not my fault! I'm bad at history!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Atomic Clock: Yet another misleading name

So, my nuclear accidents post got me thinking. Or I never stopped thinking, really, but it's a corollary, honest.

At the library, you wouldn't believe (or maybe you would) the conversations that we had with people, ad nauseum, about what time it really was, whether their computer time was actually up, whether it had actually started yet, etc. etc. So, we got radio controlled atomic clocks. I'm not sure where the radio is, but if the batteries are good, these clocks update themselves. Daylight Saving time, being activated for the first time, whatever. Eastern time of whichever necessary stripe, via cosmic rays. Radio waves. Whatever.

(picture from a random Tumblr page that says it's from the Watchmen movie.)

But. I find the name to be a little bit odd (direct corollary to my Words Unsaid post). When I first heard of atomic clocks, I thought of the other atomic clock, the "we're going to blow ourselves to Kingdom Come" atomic clock: the Doomsday Clock. It's also apparently not just nuclear anymore, but also includes that lovely double header of global warming and biologic threats.

The closest the Doomsday Clock has ever been to Midnight (according to their timeline) was in 1953. The United States had developed and tested the Hydrogen bomb, and Soviet Russia was hot on our heels. The furthest the Doomsday Clock has ever been from Midnight is 17 minutes, in 1991. The Cold War was over, and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty cut back on both America's and Russia's nuclear arsenals (for which you can read a very interesting chronology of here on, which is the Federation of American Scientists.)

I have my own tribute to the end of the Cold War in my house: a piece of the Berlin Wall, which I purchased at Salvation Army for $5. The kicker? The clerk at Salvation Army didn't seem to realize what she was selling me. It was in a glass case, accessible only by employees, marked "All items on this shelf $5". The exchange was brief; she said "May I help you?" and I said "I'd like that piece of the Berlin Wall!" Her eyes glazed. I said "That plastic thing with the rock in it." I gave her my $5 plus tax and left, burdened with a different type of sorrow than that which Soviet Russia wrought.

(Though in a way, it reminded me of the Neil Gaiman short story where the old woman buys the Holy Grail at her local Goodwill or whatever they call them in England.)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Which one is yours? It's the one that says Bad mother---

I read April Line Writing's "On Writing Like a Motherfucker*" with interest. I let you peruse her post for what got her thinking on the...mantra? It's not exactly a platitude. Pretty good slogan? Whatever.

She ended up with asking other writers to share their talismans or rituals. Interesting that I posted (waay back in October of 2011) about how I had tried to avoid having a talisman, or rituals. I didn't want to be "locked in" to having an object, so that if I suddenly lacked it, I wouldn't also lack my mojo (I also just found a homonym typo in that post, but I'm not going to change it now. Live and learn. If y'all ever wondered, I pretty much type my entries and post them. Or type them and schedule them. I don't really look back. This is IN REAL TIME.)

But anyway. I read that post, and thought it cool that she had a mug with said mantra on it, and that it had helped her "up her game", to quote from the entry just a smidge. Fastforward to now, at the start of CampNaNoWriMo, when I'm looking at all the shiny new things in the store and thinking "Do I want a tee shirt?" (note: I will frequently get the tee shirt. I wonder what the winner shirts will look like!). Then, "Ooh, should I get a mug?!" Because it's great if the words are flying and everything is smooth sailing. But when you need that boost? Well, a mug could be cool. Or maybe what's in the mug would be the helper. It's come to pass that we have a rum I quite like, called Kraken, which I will add to cola (though I wonder if it would be good in ginger ale?) which would precipitate me shouting "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!" which may or may not startle the dog, and may or may not shake more words loose. Maybe we shouldn't get into that. But really, if my ritual is something as simple as screaming "RELEASE THE KRAKEN!" and then getting to it, I could be worse off. It's probably no worse than my shouting "Chowdah!" when I hear "chowder" said, or see it written (thanks, early season Simpsons.)

(Other side note: I never know if I should spell it "tshirt" or "teeshirt" or "tee shirt" or "t-shirt". I should probably get a ruling on this sooner rather than later.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Beware the Ides of March (Or, will I do the April Camp NaNoWriMo?)

So, I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that April is awfully early for a "summer camp" NaNoWriMo.

I'm probably also not alone in WISHING FOR GODDAMN SUMMER TO GET HERE.

Will I do April's CampNaNoWriMo session? I don't rightly know (writely know?)  I haven't finished The Wolf You Feed just yet. Or finished a not-stupid query letter for Learn to Howl. But, so what? Nobody's beating my door down.

I do have ideas for various projects. My inner weathervane is swinging back towards Steampunk (which could be partially because the gaming season in the household is switching from World of Darkness back to Pathfinder [the version of Dungeons and Dragons we cotton to]). It's a different way of thinking. Different gears. Not that my werewolves are World of Darkness werewolves anyway; I don't want that copyright trial, for serious. And not that my Steampunk is anything that we bring to the table. It's just mine. But, a group creative mood can be influential.

The last time I NaNoWriMo'd a Steampunk novel, I got pretty fed up with it most of the way through, and I don't know if I'm going to try to salvage it, or just call it a writing experience. My previous Steampunk NaNoWriMo is one that I'm very fond of, though, and feel is (eventually? Maybe?) workable. So, a fifty fifty split. Maybe I'll do it. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll write the next one in America. Or Antarctica.

Of course, in the writing of this post, combined with the Size Matters post of yesterday, I think I've already decided that I'll be doing CampNaNoWriMo, with that short story. Thoughts of it keep coming back to me, and I started the outline. And made updated the novel info on my  profile. And messed around with a picture in photobucket to make a "cover". I guess I'm committed now! It's called The Last Song, but that may or may not change. See, I'm not a Nicholas Sparks fan AT ALL, but his novel titles tend to give me horror story ideas. Probably not his intent. And I guess this story is actually rather more gritty Urban Fantasy, but every genre can contain scary things.

Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? It looms! This year's sessions are April and July.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Size Matters

How do you decide if something is going to be a novel? A short story? Flash? Novelette? Fantasy epic spanning many volumes?

Not all of these things are apparent when you start, necessarily. You might only have a character in mind, or a kernel of an idea. You might have a full story arc in mind. But how do you decide how many words goes into that arc?

I wrote a short story last fall that I'm wondering if I should novelize. There are more details that could be explored, I feel. It could really be pretty cool, because of course coolness is the prime motivator for anything. I just reread it, and it's only ten pages, a trim 4817 words. There are some sentences in it that I love, a unique pleasure. Can I multiply that by ten? Should I? I sense this is where crazy things like outlines would be useful.

Thankfully, I haven't yet run into the novel I wrote that should have just been a short story. Or I could use that as a personal exercise. Editor people tend to want two page synopses, things like that, yes? That could be fun (another motivator).  Another fun thing would be to take some dearly loved classics which also happen to be cinderblocks and render them down.

I think it's important, sometimes, to get away from the idea that every word you initially laid on the page is crucial and necessary. "Kill your darlings" is one of those phrases, but it's true. On my recent reread of Learn to Howl, before I emailed it off to Kelly (and also Mahria!), was a read-and-edit of the "Does this work? Is this stupid? Let's do this." sort. I removed unnecessary instances of the word "that". I've resisted thinking about it or looking at it since.

But my short story/novel problem. It's been bugging me for days. I think "Oh yes, I can add this other story snippet into it. It would be perfect!" Urban fantasy is what the genre is, if I must label it, and it's a gritty thing, in a city, with a rock star and graffiti and junkies. I wonder if a couple of the characters are too obviously named for their mythological counterparts; I also wonder if anybody even knows or cares anymore. The classical and literary references I make tend to be for my own enjoyment; nobody yet has recognized when I hint at things like Crime and Punishment, or The Stranger. Or if they did, they didn't say.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Makeup? Pokemon? Pringles?

So, when I bought my first Urban Decay  product, I didn't know it was like Pringles; that I couldn't only have one.

This is a strange confession/realization to have. I never used to wear makeup well, at all. I've got some Bare Escentuals mineral things that I wear because it's far less fuss than doing actual foundation etc. etc. (even if it does leave my sink a bit muddy )I really only had some brief perfume forays (I really liked Sand and Sable once upon a time), something that got a little more hardcore after I discovered the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (thanks, Neil Gaiman!) Thanks to BPAL, I have Shub Niggurath perfume (my favorite). And Cheshire Cat. And Snake Oil. I had Nuclear Winter (a limited edition holiday scent), but it almost killed both Jim and I, which is odd, because though Jim is frequently allergic to the world, I am not.

But, my first Urban Decay purchase was the Book of Shadows IV. This is a fairly complete makeup setup. Eyeliner, mascara, a bunch of shadows, eye shadow primer (who knew you used primer for that? I didn't), a goddamn laser light show, mirror, and QR codes. Srs bsns.  (I had no idea that "srs bsns" had an official emoticon face. Consider yourself informed.)  I've actually figured out how to put on eyeliner, you see (I started out by  using the Physician's Formula felt tip model, then a "regular" pencil if it's soft enough, and now I can finally use the Urban Decay liquid liner. I have yet to try the little gel pot thingers that come with a brush. I've subsequently also bought the Black Palette. You figure that's enough, right?

Well, I keep seeing ads for the Naked Palette, and since I don't full on glitter smokey eye to, y'know, work at the library with the creeps, I catch myself thinking "oh yeah, I should totally..." WHY?! WHY SHOULD I?  Really, I can buy a neutral Hard Candy palette at Wal Mart and call it good. By why do I want this? What's happened to my brain?

Jim appreciates that I wear makeup now. But seriously. I had to use YOUTUBE to learn how to be a grownup. And there are a lot of "beauty blogs" out there, which I never used to think about. I don't know why I am. I mean, part of the inspiration was a certain Goth cellist character that I created for the purposes of Mage (and who I love dearly), but I haven't picked up her other traits, such as cello. Or being Goth. I mean, I do have a certain sense of despair when facing the world sometimes, and my misanthropy knows few bounds. I have a new appreciation for Bach. But there is little overlap, given that she's a character I created in my brain, and Mage is make believe. Thoroughly enjoyable make believe, but there it is. This is not an Elfstar situation, people (nor do I truly believe such situations actually occur in say, 99.99999999% of the populace, role playing or otherwise).

So, tl; dr I'm getting all girly in some arenas and it weirds me out.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Words Unsaid

Once I discovered that I could read books for myself, I was no longer at the mercy of my family readers. I picked my own books and reveled in the luxury of being able to read them --- myself --- whenever I wanted. However long I wanted. I in fact used to get in trouble, at home and at school, for "reading too much". At least I wasn't out robbing old people, right?

Reading only to myself resulted in an exponential total books read. It's also resulted in my knowing words that I do not, in fact, know how to pronounce. People don't use them. Seriously. "Wont" was a word Jack London used a lot in Call of the Wild; not many eight year olds hear that in everyday use. "Wan" is another one.

What about Latin? You know, the dead language? How exactly do you say "vici", of "Veni, Vidi, Vici?" Is it like "victim" or is it like "vice"? It's hard to talk about a show Doberman you like (Protocol's Veni Vidi Vici) when you can't actually pronounce the whole of her registered name; her call name is Fifi.

It's hard to sound cool reciting Ginsberg's "Howl" from memory if you trip up at the word "dynamo" (it's pretty early on, if you're not in the know).

I also try very hard to say peoples' names correctly. At work, I'm the one who makes the library's phone calls to people who have available holds. I'm occasionally confronted with a first name I have never seen before, or heard. Or heard of. When possible, I Google it and listen to a pronunciation of it (a few baby names web sites have this, apparently. Thank God.) Sometimes even that doesn't work, and then I pray for a voicemail. That way, I can say "An item you ordered" instead of butchering their given name.

I try to keep these things in mind while I'm writing. I say sentences out loud, to see how they fit together. I ask myself if I've picked the fifty cent word, instead of the one that people will be more familiar with. I ask myself if I've picked a ridiculous name, that nobody will actually know how to pronounce. I've read entire books without knowing how to say one of the main character's names. Case in point, L. M. Montgomer's Emily of New Moon trilogy; I know how to say Emily, obviously, but her best friend's name is Ilse. Do you say it kind of like "Isles", the other word for islands? Do you use a hard "i", as with the word "Is"? Is the "e" at the end pronounced in an "a" manner (like Elsa, but with an I?) Of course, if I watched the television series (it's on Hulu), I'd have the answer already.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Library Quotes

Small child in the picture book room: Where's *insert the children's librarian's name here* Hey!
Coworker: Should we tell her *children's librarian* went home?
Me: Nah, she'll figure it out. It's the Suzuki method.
Coworker: Tell me again why you're not going to grad school.

A patron: well, my eyes are going, but I only need to see hot men and large print books. 

Coworker: So, you read about serial killers and things. Do you have, like, a favorite serial killer?
Me: Not really
Coworker is visibly relieved. 
Coworker: Well,  is there one you read about more than the others?
Me: What, for pointers? No.

Coworker: Do you have any gum?
Me:  Yeah, it's on my shelf under the Titanic.
Coworker: Because where else would it be.
Me: It's Dentyne Ice, isn't it?

Me: Hey, if you Google Maps "Sedan Crater" you can see the nuclear bomb craters at the Nevada Test Site!
Coworker: What is wrong with you?

View Larger Map

 Male Coworker: I'm surprised you haven't killed like, fourteen people by now.
Me: What, me personally, or the two of us?
Male Coworker: You personally.

Coworker to me: I'm surprised you don't know how to hotwire a car.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Pennies from Heaven

Most people in creative fields have stock in inspiration. We're fond of that "ah-ha!" moment of epiphany, we carefully cradle our everyday creative spark, we pan for ideas the way  prospectors sought gold.

Of course, you can never predict when an idea might strike. Or how many ideas will strike in a given time period (or how few). You never know if a story thread will peter out or hit paydirt. You never know when your brilliant idea will be tarnished by the doubt of others. There are times for everybody, I'm sure, when they share a kernel of a thought that they're quite excited about with somebody, only to be diminished when they don't see that same joy in the other person's face.

I had a particularly rich vein of ideas when I was sick recently. I also frequently get them from dreams of the non-fevered variety. I get them from the news. I get them from some outside stimuli striking lightning in my brain stew. Or whatever. A muse? Maybe. I would have thought I'm too antisocial for one.

The point being, sometimes ideas seem like gifts.

I'm bad at writing thank you notes, but I wish I knew who to send this one to. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Animals Are Freaking Weird

I already knew my Doberman, Elka, was kind of weird. Or I thought so, anyway. She'll back up to the couch and sit on it with her feet still on the floor. I don't think dogs normally do that. Or say "Out" when they have to go out.

And goats. I knew that goats looked weird. Those eyes. The cloven hooves. The horns. Those neck things (when they have neck things). In some manners of art, Satan is a goatish critter for a reason. Goats look otherworldly and perhaps as though they're not to be trusted.

When they yell like humans, though? That's freaking weird (some sheep are included in the following video):

Friday, March 1, 2013

Nuclear Accidents (I can't be the only one interested)

A few years back, in the nascent stages of my nuclear paranoia and layman's research into the topic of the history of both bombs and reactors, I read Atomic Harvest: Hanford and the Lethal Toll of America's Arsenal, by Michal D'Antonio. Hanford is one of the nuclear sites that enriched plutonium for the Trinity test, Fat Man and Little Boy, back in World War II.

Imagine my surprise to see in the news an article about six containment vessels leaking at a site in Washington state. At Hanford, of course, which is (I believe) known as America's most contaminated nuclear site. "Surprise" being subjective, of course. Considering some of the things in Atomic Harvest, I'd known that employees became pretty lax when it came to safety standards, even when personal safety was the issue. I'd known that they used little red Goddamn wagons to transport plutonium discs around the site. I'd known that when people are around dangerous things, they acclimate, and they become reckless in the outsider's eyes. Familiarity breeds contempt, so the saying goes, though I'm sure that's not what whoever said that meant. It makes good enough sense in my context here. So, for the Department of Energy to  “not adequately analyze data it had that would have shown the other tanks that are leaking.” (per the above linked New York Times article) at the Hanford site....well, that doesn't surprise me. Our nuclear history is riddled with such casual Goddamn negligence. That, and why is the DOE looking at that at all? Why isn't the Nuclear Regulatory Commission? Would it have made the difference?