Bitses

Where is time going? Why are the days flying past so quickly? It seems impossible and ridiculous that two and a half weeks should have passed since the last time I posted. And it’s not like I have anything to say–I just felt the need to say whatever. So I’m just going to write a bunch of bits.

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Last night my sister and I watched the 2nd and 3rd episodes of Caprica. So far, so good. As far as I can tell, a lot of stuff is being set into motion, and I’m starting to be very curious to see how it all plays out. And not even interested to see how it plays out in a way that leads to the world of Battlestar Galactica–just interested to see how it plays out on its own terms. That being said, there is something connecting both series that I’m curious about. In BSG, Joseph Adama, Bill’s father, is known as a great jurist. (Or at least that’s my recollection.) In Caprica, he’s Joe Adama and he’s a corrupt mob lawyer. I want to know how one man becomes the other. I hope I’ll see it.

Whatever happens, the ads for this week’s episode make me want to see it now. My sister and I talked about watching two episodes every other week; I’m not sure I can wait that long.

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After finishing Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood a couple of weeks ago, I was absolutely compelled to start the series at the beginning again. I flew through the first seven books–A Share in Death; All Shall Be Well; Leave the Grave Green; Mourn Not Your Dead; Dreaming of the Bones; Kissed a Sad Goodbye; and A Finer End–but now I’m slowing down. I think it’s partly because I remember the more recent books more clearly than the older ones; I’m having a “Oh, yeah, this one…” reaction.

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I’ve also been writing: scribbling the first draft of the mess-in-progress, and averaging over 500 words a day, which is a smoking pace for me; and writing posts for The Moody Muses.

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I’m unlikely to watch the Super Bowl tonight–it’s not how I want to spend that time–but I hope the New Orleans Saints win. They’re underdogs and that city has been through enough. It’s not even that I don’t want the Colts to lose. It’s really all about the Saints.

Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood

I finished Deborah Crombie’s Necessary As Blood on the bus today–it was a fabulous read, that kept me up too late for a couple of nights–and as I was finishing it, I realized one of the things I like about the series, in addition to the ones I’d discovered originally: I like the relationships between the characters. Not just Gemma and Duncan, and their children, but the ones they have with their coworkers and friends, and the relationships those people have with each other. I also read the books to see how those relationships develop, to see what happens next.

Realizing that tonight made me realize that I love the same thing in my two guilty-pleasure TV shows, NCIS and Bones, and it’s one of the many things I loved about Battlestar Galactica. I’m not sure this has any meaning for my writing, but I suspect it does. I know that I’m interested in the connections my characters have with each other. There’s a line in U2’s great song, One: “We get to carry each other.” I think that’s true; I think we carry each other through our friendships. Maybe that’s something I need to hold in mind as I keep scribbling away.

Drive-By

Earlier today, I watched Control, the movie about Ian Curtis of Joy Division. Excellent movie, with a rightfully praised performance by Sam Riley. The thing that impressed me most is the subtlety of his transformation into someone whose profound unhappiness led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

Curtis killed himself before I became aware of Joy Division, but I was a fan of New Order, the name that band took as they continued in the wake of Curtis’s death. The thing is, I love, love, love, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, Joy Division’s biggest single. I didn’t know, though, that it was Joy Division — or maybe that knowledge just never stuck.

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I have an author to add to New To Me: Emily Arsenault for her debut, The Broken Teaglass. Publisher’s Weekly put it better than I can: “In Emily Arsenault’s quirky, arresting debut, two young lexicographers find clues to an old murder case hidden in the files at their dictionary company…The result is an absorbing, offbeat mystery–meets–coming-of-age novel that’s as sweet as it is suspenseful.”

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is that it demonstrates the importance of context. Quotes that seem to mean one thing, to have one tone, have a different meaning, a different tone in a different context.

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Things have been difficult on the writing front. I came closer than I have before to quitting Dragonfly — I was convinced its problems were insurmountable, or at least would mean cutting roughly 25% of the existing work. That made me sad, made me feel as if the wretched thing will never be finished.

Fortunately, before I got out my machete, I got to the heart of the real problem…and figured out the real solution. Whew! So now it’s just a matter of implementing it…

Netbooks and Books

Still feeling the netbook love…

One of the funny things about using the netbook is that it makes my laptop look enormous. I blink every time I open Writer’s Cafe on the laptop because it looks so huge. Wrong, even, as if it’s somehow distorted. Contrast this with my first experience of using WC on the netbook: I felt like I’d been shoved into a 2′ x 2′ box. If that doesn’t teach me I’m adaptable, I don’t know what will.

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I stayed up too late last night (again!) because I was reading. I’m almost finished with the latest Laurie R. King Russell/Holmes mystery, The Language of Bees. It’s not my favorite of the series, but it’s also not my least favorite. (That would be Justice Hall, the only book in the series I have in hardcover, of course.) I’m not entirely sure why I’m not quite enthralled. I think it’s because Russell and Holmes seem much less connected than they have in the past. Since I read the series in part for that connection, this diminishes my pleasure.

Still, the book is well-written, so it’s no penance to read. I just wish I’d fallen for it as hard as I fell for the first one, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

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When I’m finished with The Language of Bees, it’ll be back to Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. I set it aside specifically to finish TLoB, since I figured if push came to shove, it was much more likely that I’d be able to renew Hirohito. After that, I don’t know. I have 20+ books out from the library, plus 3 on hold. And that doesn’t even begin to get into all my owned-but-unread books.

We’ll see what I’m in the mood for.

January 7, 2008: I Hab a Co’d

This morning I woke up with a brutal sore throat and an achy body, the opening salvo of a cold. Tonight my throat much less sore, I’m much less achy, but there’s kind of a scratchy sensation in my upper bronchial passages that suggests the cold is heading there. And my nose is running like crazy.

Sigh.

This is the second cold I’ve had in the last four months, after years of going without one. This is annoying on so many levels. The nice thing is that it’s an excuse to read in bed.

Which brings me to this: I’m going to participate in a challenge this year, Literary Escapism’s New Author Challenge. I’m going to try to read 25 new-to-me authors between January 1 and December 31, 2009. I’ve already read two this year; I’ll post reviews of both books (His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis and Case Histories by Kate Atkinson) when I’m feeling better.

November 22, 2008: Kincaid/Jones Series

I finished Where Memories Lie last night. It was as good as I’d expected it to be, which is always nice. One of the strengths of the series is the quality of Deborah Crombie’s writing. It’s low key yet vivid, and it allows me to sink into the story:

The day was utterly miserable for early May, even considering the expected vagaries of English weather.  At a few minutes to four in the afternoon it was dark as twilight, and the rain came down in relentless, pounding sheets.  The gusts of wind had repeatedly turned Henri Durrell’s umbrella wrong side out, so he had given up, and trudged down the Old Brompton Road with his head down and his shoulders hunched against the torrent, trying to avoid losing an eye to carelessly wielded umbrellas that had proved stronger than his own, and dodging the waves thrown up by passing automobiles.

I’m a serious fussock for clean, clear writing — I can’t endure clunky prose (which sometimes presents a problem when faced with badly written yet necessary research writing) — so that’s partly what I read Crombie for.

The other thing I read for is for the mystery. She continues to link present mysteries to past ones — in this particular case, the present-day murders are tied to a murder that took place in 1952. The whole thing comes together in a satisfying way at the end, and makes me wish there were another Kincaid/Jones mystery waiting for me.

November 3, 2008: Narrative Strategies

The book I chose last night is The 19th Wife by David Ebersoff. It’s about Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife, and about the 19th wife of a man in a modern-day polygamous LDS sect, who’s accused of murdering her husband.

The novel is structured as a collection of narratives — a reimagined autobiography by Ann Eliza Young (who really did write her autobiography when she left Brigham Young), the stories of her parents, newspaper articles from the 1870s (when she left), his mother’s story by the son of the modern-day 19th wife.

The narrative strategy is working for me because I don’t think this is really the story of any one of the characters in particular, as it is of a particular world. This is particularly interesting me because I can’t help thinking that this would be a viable narrative strategy for my story, if the story I’m telling is about the world of the story, more than it is about the people living in that world. So I’m flirting with the idea.

The thing is, what I do as a writer is show what it feels like to be that person, whoever the person is. Breaking the story up into a collection of narratives runs the risk of undercutting that, of not making the most of it. In the case of The 19th Wife, I think part of what’s going on is showing how the stories people tell are designed to serve their purposes. Basically, spin existed even before there was a name for it; the 19th century characters are putting spin on their stories just as surely as the 21st century characters. Since what I do is write about emotional experience — what it feels like to live through this moment, as this person — an examination of spin is not something likely to turn up in my work any time soon.

I think.

I have a friend whose response to “You can’t do X in that genre” is to go out and write something that does X. I have a little bit of that quality too, so now I’m thinking, “I wonder if I can merge multiple narratives, spin, and emotion in one story…” When I think about it, I might already be doing it; part of what goes on in Dragonfly is people lying to themselves about their own truths. The thing is, that’s not really about spin. Spin, to me, is about managing the story you give to the outside world. In the case of Dragonfly, people are telling stories to themselves that aren’t true. The story that goes out into the world is a secondary consideration (with one possible exception).

So now that I’ve wandered all over the place (and now that you know how it goes inside my head, because that’s my thinking process up there), where does this leave me? Still undecided about whether the multiple-narratives strategy would be a good or bad way to tell Dragonfly, and really eager to finish The 19th Wife.

Light Reading: October 29, 2008

As I expected, I finished Black Ship last night. It was very satisfying, but I’d expected that, too.

Talking about it, though, lands me square on the horns of a dilemma, one I haven’t resolved: how to describe something light in a way that doesn’t make it sounds stupid. The appeal of the Dalrymple mysteries and other types of light reading is that they don’t make particular kinds of demands of me, whether those demands are intellectual or emotional. In the case of the Dalrymple mysteries, I know nothing horrible is going to happen — there’ll be a murder, but it won’t be presented in a disturbing way, and the thread of violence isn’t going to hang over the narrative.

That description strikes me as damning with faint praise, which is not my intention. My life makes demands on me that use up a lot of mental and emotional energy, and sometimes my reading is all about escaping those demands so I can recharge my batteries. Fiction that lets me do that is welcome and beloved.

So maybe you’ll join me in a moment of gratitude for the pleasure to be found in smart, light fiction, even if I haven’t figured out how to describe it in a way that praises it properly.

Back to Daisy: October 28, 2008

Last night, I read half of the latest Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Black Ship, and I’m itching to read the other half. I have stuff to do tonight, including work out, but the temptation to blow everything off in order to read is almost overwhelming. In fact, I’m cutting this short tonight to get back to reading all tht more quickly.

A girl has to do what a girl has to do.

The Night Villa and a Darcy Mystery: October 6, 2008

I finished The Night Villa last night. My final response is tepid: it was pleasant to read, relatively interesting, but not, for me, a magical read. I didn’t devour it, I didn’t close it with a happy sigh, but I didn’t have to force myself to finish it. (I almost never force myself to finish books any more — I just don’t have the time or the desire any more.)

After that, I read Carrie Bebris’s The Matters at Mansfield (A Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mystery). The amateur sleuths in the series are Elizabeth and Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; the series has (so far) connected to a Jane Austen novel. They’re light cozies, not particularly taxing reading, but very enjoyable, and I look forward to all of them.

I’m not sure what I’m reading next. I’m feeling some pressure to read Brunonia Barry’s The Lace Reader. it’s a library book, it’s due October 14, and there’s no way I’ll be able to renew it. So, read it now while I have it. It’s set in Salem, MA, but Barry is a North Shore native, so I’m thinking the Salem she writes about will bear some resemblance to the Salem I know. And that will be a good thing.

So, it’s probably The Lace Reader…but I might kick over the traces and read something completely different.

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