Saturday, February 2, 2019

Misunderstanding of intention

Winter is trying to stay mild, but these waves of storms keep coming through. It almost makes me prefer the regular kind of winter where the cold just sets in and stays consistent. I'm sure those of you who had to live through -50 degree F weather would agree on some level. Here, we're battered by wind.
I decided not to wait and got up this morning to power through filing taxes. It's nice to at least have that chore done.
The folks over at University Press of Mississippi are doing an amazing job with the academic book. They revealed the cover to me just a few weeks back and it's stellar. I'm over the moon with it. I can't wait to share it with you.
The semester has started and is going smoothly so far. Or, at least, as smoothly as it can. Enrollment is down and there hasn't been any talk of raises for years but at least the shutdown didn't involve us.
I would talk about my feelings about politics right now, but if I wrote about it here, I'm pretty sure what I have to say would, at the very least, get me on a watch list (he said, as if he wasn't already on at least three). All I can say is this--if you're LGBTQ (especially if you are Trans) in America right now, just hang in there. I suspect that this level of nonsense cannot keep up much longer without a reaction in the opposite direction. 
The current book is creeping along. It's not that I don't like it. It's not that at all. I'm just starting to think that this is part of my process--this middle part where things kind of creep along.
I'm still trying to find a home for the urban fantasy book, so it's out there making the rounds.
One of the things I've seen lately online is people vehemently rejecting the idea that there can be any advice for writers. I'm surprised by the bitterness of it, to be honest. There are twitter rampages about rejecting the idea of "plotters" and "pantsers." There are tirades calling the idea of "kill your darlings" ridiculous. If you're out there, you've seen them. I wonder if that's not how we are going to come to think of this particular era of literature--now that we've rejected all the rules of narrative and structure, the next step of postmodernism is to completely reject the idea that anyone can give any advice to anyone else. I think what disturbs me most is that this backlash against advice, no matter how time-tested and true it might be, seems to come from a place of anger. It's as if people believe that these ideas were being passed down as a kind of attack rather than as a type of help. And isn't that the online community in a nutshell these days...a complete and willful misunderstanding of intention. Don't get me wrong, as a writer I get the feeling of "just leave me along and let me do what I do." However, every time someone has passed down a bit of advice, no matter how corny it might be, it has helped. In his genius book, On Writing, Stephen King defines a "bad" writer as one who is unwilling to work on their craft. Just by virtue of working on your craft, King says that you aren't a bad writer but instead at least a competent one. I like that a lot. I can't help but think that part of this backlash against advice is a kind of excuse to not have to put in the work of improving. That's just what I think, anyway.
As always, thank you for your support of the books. It truly means the world to me.
Until next time, stay warm, and stay safe.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

All Out of Car

Do you ever pick up quotes from movies or TV shows and then, for the life of you, can't remember where the quote comes from? There's one that occurs to me often, but I have zero idea where it came from, and it's this: a guy is talking to another guy about racing, and he says something about putting the pedal all the way down but you're "all out of car." I think about that one a lot because it's about how the spirit can be willing, but there are very real physical limits to things. You may want to go faster, but when you're at the absolute limit of the engine, there's no more car left for you to have.

That's exactly how I feel right now.

Which is strange, because I've had weeks of time off from teaching and away from writing and reading, but I'm all out of car. There have been times in the past when my winter break was fruitful. These past few weeks, it seems like all I can do to...well, you get the idea. The current novel has been hovering around 40k words for over a month. Even Reservation Blues, as magnificent a novel as it is, isn't inspiring me much. A lot of novels are winding up on the "did not finish" pile.

It's like the universe understands this in some ways, though, because no matter where I go, I keep running in to students that have already graduated who are doing well and have nice things to say about our time together. That helps. I was prepared for this last batch of course evaluations (though I have some pretty serious problems with the way course evaluations are set up these days) students said nice things in the comments. That helped, too.

Having to go back home for the funeral just kind of knocked the wind out of me and I'm not recovering super fast. 

I'm getting a lot of anime watched, though, so that's a thing. I have to admit that I'm not as impressed with "Jojo's Bizarre Adventure" as I thought I was going to be when I first started it. "Rascal does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai" has a fantastic concept, but the pace is slow...and if you know the kinds of films I love, you'd know that means glacial.

All of this is by way of saying that I'm not going to be doing an end of the year list like I normally do; I'm just going to do this quicky, down-and-dirty one-entry version. I hope that's okay:

Best book I read this year: Tatjana Soli's 2010 novel, The Lotus Eaters




Best film I saw this year:  Alfonso Cuarón's film, "Roma"





Best album I bought this year: Jacob Collier's "Djesse Vol. 1"






Best anime I watched this year: Studio Trigger's "SSSS.Gridman" 




 So that's my list. You should check them out. If you get a chance, let me know in comments what you liked this year.
As always, thanks for the support for the books. It really does mean a lot to me that you guys are enjoying them.
I know you're going to get tired of hearing this, but let's collectively hope for a better 2019, ok?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Post-Nathan World

My entry for the end of the month of November is late by a few days and I apologize for that.
Things were humming along just fine and then I got the news--my cousin had passed away. One of the things I've been struggling with the last week plus is that, when people ask what happened, that's the sentence I give them--"my cousin passed away." But that doesn't come anywhere close to what I mean.
In a technical way, that sentence is correct: he was the youngest son of my mother's oldest brother. But we're a Southern family (for all the ways I try to run away from that idea). Southern kinship is unique to say the least. So much so that there are studies on it. My mother was the only girl in a family of boys, so when her brothers married, their wives and my mother immediately bonded (of course it helps that they were also amazing human beings). In that kind of situation, all the children are raised together--one big passel of kids and whoever happened to be nearest by when one of them needed something or had to be corrected, that's the one that did so and the others backed her decisions. It's a bit lion pride, really. I tell you that to tell you what I mean when I say that "my cousin passed away" just doesn't get at what I mean--we were all raised together, like brothers (all of the grandkids by happenstance were boys). All of my memories of growing up involved all of them. In a lot of families I've heard of, a cousin is someone you only see on the holidays and really don't talk to much beyond that. That's not how we were.
It was especially true with Nathan, my next oldest cousin (even then, I nearly typed 'brother'). We were inseparable to the point that it was remarked on out loud at every family function.
He taught me everything I know about so many things.
I was hit hard by the loss of David Bowie. I was hit hard by the loss of Prince. I kept saying that we now exist in a post-Bowie world, a post-Prince world, and how much I hated how things have turned out.
Now I exist in a post-Nathan world. This feels something like what twins describe when they lose the other twin. I realize that sounds like hyperbole, but that's where I am right now. Who am I now that my other half is gone?
After I graduated from high school, we moved back to the city where my mother had grown up. There were a lot of reasons but the main one was that my oldest cousin had passed away. The family came together for that. I lived there in the South for the next 12 years or so. When I moved back I was newly 18, not out of the closet yet, and lost. Nathan, even though he was going through is own pain at the loss of his older brother, took me in and became mine. I went through a period of time where I had to learn a lot about myself and he was always there to help with that, even when I was in the wrong (and man did that happen a lot more than I am comfortable with). Even when I had done some really terrible things, he never blinked. We had terrible fights that would have ended any other friendship (I mean some BAD ones), but we always came back together. 
Way leads on to way, and I moved for school. My trips back there became less and less frequent, but when we would see one another, we immediately picked up right where we left off. It was as if no time had passed.
Way leads on to way, and I moved for my job. My trips home became even less frequent, to the point that when I finally added it up, this trip home for the funeral was my first back in nearly 6 years. I never meant for it to be that long but...
The funeral was so well-attended that we were spilling out into the streets. The building wasn't big enough to hold everyone who knew him. The funeral home panicked so badly they called in people who were supposed to be off that day just to help with crowd control. He would have loved that. I told the person I was talking to at the time that if ten more people showed up with a drum or two, it would turn into Carnivale. That, he would have really loved.
Another woman, someone I had been close to but hadn't seen in nearly twenty years said that there had been plans at one point to have a reunion much like what we were seeing there at the funeral, but it just never came together. I wish it had. I like to think I would have gone to it.
I wound up having to drive the 1600 miles home and then three days later the 1600 miles back. Bereavement fares do not cover cousins--they are quite specific about who is covered, and they very much mean "nuclear family." Thing is, though, that's sort of what I'm getting at...for all intents and purposes, he was. The fact that my mother and his mother were different people meant absolutely nothing to either of us.
When I tell people "my cousin died" it feels imprecise...like a lie, somehow.
"Where are we now, where are we now? The moment you know you know you know" Bowie sings, and though I thought I understood what that lyric meant before, I understand it in a whole new way, today.



Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Hard Cover


October always feels busier than it really is for me. Semester-wise, it’s when midterms occur, so there’s a period of about one week in every October where the grading is intense. Then things settle in to the bottom half of the semester.
Still, Halloween always seems to creep up on me. It’s a holiday that I never really got into as a kid. I think that’s because it’s about performance and when I was younger I was in theater a lot. I kind of got all those wiggles out, already.
The academic book is done for now and turned in. Next we’re off to line edits and proofs. It may take a bit longer than I thought to get the book out, though. We could be looking at this time next year. Still, I never in a million years thought when I started the process of writing my dissertation all those years ago that eventually a distant cousin of that document would see the light of day. It’s very exciting and daunting all at the same time. As silly as it might sound, I’m even more excited that it will be available in hardcover. I’ve never had anything of mine in hardcover. They’ve warned me, the hardcover format for books like this is VERY expensive (it’s meant for libraries mostly), but still…This is the same level of excitement I had when I heard that Remains would be available in audio format.
The novel is coming along again. One of the characters revealed something to me during an early-morning writing session and so we’re off and running once more. Still, I would love to know what life is like for plotters. As a lifelong pantser, I envy that ability they must have to simply sit down, check over their notes to see what comes next and off they go, typing in the same way that a husky bounds through the snow, to borrow Anne Lamott’s phrasing.
One of the things that has been most interesting about the 3 cat situation is that Onyx, my oldest, my ride-or-die, my man in Havana, has become much more active. 

October always feels busier than it really is for me. Semester-wise, it’s when midterms occur, so there’s a period of about one week in every October where the grading is intense. Then things settle in to the bottom half of the semester.
Still, Halloween always seems to creep up on me. It’s a holiday that I never really got into as a kid. I think that’s because it’s about performance and when I was younger I was in theater a lot. I kind of got all those wiggles out, already.
The academic book is done for now and turned in. Next we’re off to line edits and proofs. It may take a bit longer than I thought to get the book out, though. We could be looking at this time next year. Still, I never in a million years thought when I started the process of writing my dissertation all those years ago that eventually a distant cousin of that document would see the light of day. It’s very exciting and daunting all at the same time. As silly as it might sound, I’m even more excited that it will be available in hardcover. I’ve never had anything of mine in hardcover. They’ve warned me, the hardcover format for books like this is VERY expensive (it’s meant for libraries mostly), but still…This is the same level of excitement I had when I heard that Remains would be available in audio format.
The novel is coming along again. One of the characters revealed something to me during an early-morning writing session and so we’re off and running once more. Still, I would love to know what life is like for plotters. As a lifelong pantser, I envy that ability they must have to simply sit down, check over their notes to see what comes next and off they go, typing in the same way that a husky bounds through the snow, to borrow Anne Lamott’s phrasing.
One of the things that has been most interesting about the 3 cat situation is that Onyx, my oldest, my ride-or-die, my man in Havana, has become much more active.

It turns out that Linus, the new guy, is…well, as I keep telling people, he’s a dude. He likes to wrestle and play chase. It’s taken a bit for that new energy to catch on, but I’ve actually seen Onyx initiate games of chase. It’s nice to see his not-old-but-very-much-an-adult self still acting silly.
Midterm voting day is fast approaching. Remember—if you are in the United States, over the age of 18, and you are reading this, no matter what party you support, no matter what your politics look like, I’m begging you, pleading with you…PLEASE get out and vote. The number of people who don’t vote is staggering, and that means that the election results are often not truly representative of where the country really is. So please remember to get out and vote on Tuesday the 6th of November. It’s easier than you think it is, and it’s so incredibly important (always, but especially right now).
As always, if you’re thinking of picking up something new to read, I hope you’ll consider stopping by a small press. I can’t tell you how much we as small press authors appreciate it, and how much the owners of the small presses, who take chances on those of us who are working outside the mainstream, appreciate it, too. There are a number of them out there; a quick Google search will get you a number of them. Of course, I’d double appreciate it if you stopped by Lethe Press or Rebel Satori Press. Keeping them in business helps me.
As always, thanks for the support. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
See you next month for Turkey shenanigans!
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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Unvirtuous

Fall comes in yet again. The little tree I planted in the back yard lost all its leaves which was simultaneously adorable and sad.




School is well underway. Of course, that brings with it the usual bouts of drama. Again, I try to stay well clear of any of that stuff. The students are what is important--the rest of it, isn't. I entertain dreams of a healthy, calm workplace, but more and more I think that's a silly dream that never happens anywhere, one, and two, that it especially doesn't happen in the ivory tower. Oh, the stories I could regale you with.
Still, it is crazy to me that we're seconds from midterm. Insert cliché observation about time, etc. 
The academic book is coming along very quickly. The reader report was far more positive than I had any reason to hope for. I was over the moon about it. I'm working toward the deadline to get the few changes that were asked for complete. Here's hoping we can have it out sometime in the first half of next year.
Unfortunately the novel I'm working on right now is stalled. I'm beginning to think this is just part of my process--to get about 30k words in and then screech to a halt for a while. The two main characters got into the submarine and got away from their pursuers and are having the huge conversation that I wanted them to have, but I just can't seem to see where it goes after that. Who knows...maybe it's a novella that ends on a soft cliffhanger. Stranger things have happened.
The next novel you guys will see, though, is still in the pipeline. My hope is that it is either just about to go out to an editor or that it is already on an editor's desk. As I keep saying, I'm very excited for you to see it.
Well, excited and a little scared. The cultural atmosphere has changed. People seem to want their books to include virtuous and diverse casts of characters working to save the world right now. There's nothing wrong with that, but that's just...not what I write. The next novel that comes out is *especially* not of that kind. Can I be this honest with you? I'm not interested in virtuous characters. I write the kinds of characters that I'm trying to figure out, and more often than not, they wind up being...well...rather unvirtuous. They aren't good people making important statements about what it's like to be a good person in a fucked up world. They're terrible people, the kinds of people who tend to make the world fucked up, and they interact with other deeply disturbed people. Take Zeus from SG, for instance. He's not meant to be someone you want to emulate, he's not someone meant to stand in for the harried, put-upon everyman. He's a fucking monster. He might wind up doing something that you agree with (saving Gan), but he doesn't do it because of his deep seated goodness. This is what kind of worries me, right now. The culture seems to be set on art (and artists) being virtuous. I am not. My work is not. The characters in my work are not (and likely won't be, if I know me). I say all this because I wonder what people will make of Markus, and of Victor, and the choices they make. What people will say about the book based on this lens that the culture is using right now.
Like a significant portion of the world, I'm reading Hank Green's debut novel, An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,

The ideas are fantastic. I get the feeling that he writes a lot like I do...by writing scenes and then figuring out how to string them together. I truly wish I could be one of those people who diligently breaks the story and then outlines from that and then methodically produces a book. A plotter would be a fantastic thing to be. Unfortunately, I am a lifelong pantser. Still, the book is good. As usual, there'll be a review up on Goodreads soon.
As always, thank you for your support. It means the world to me.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Before the Break

School is back in session. It's nice to be back, nice to be in contact with the students again, but the second we had a faculty meeting it was right back to bad feelings and suspicions, etc. I think we have the capability of doing so much good, but what usually ends up happening instead is...well...you probably have similar stuff where you work, so you know the deal.
Just as we had all hoped, the reader report for the academic book came back and I'm over the moon about it. They liked the book a lot. There's work to be done, for sure, but I'm all smiles about it. Updates on that as we go. Fingers crossed we can get it out early next year.
The landscaping is done! I'll post pictures of it soon. I'm so happy with what the guy did. I'm just in the process of trying to make this place look like I wanted it to look when I first bought it. Now that the landscaping is done, and once I get it paid down, it'll be time to get the master bathroom redone. If you live outside of the United States, something you may not know is that we often put bathtubs in our bathrooms that aren't really actually big enough for the average American. As a culture, we mostly shower, anyway. So it's time to get that out of there and put in something more shower-centric. Something with a door rather than having to use a plastic curtain. I dunno.
The family that originally took in the other feral kitten, Luci(fer)'s brother, had to move away. In the process, rather than contacting any of us who were involved, they simply dumped the kitten at Metro. I happened to be looking at the pictures that morning (a habit that always makes me sad but happy at the same time), I suddenly see a cat who is the right age, the right coloring, and has the (I would say ridiculous) name that they gave him. So, I didn't have any choice...I adopted him that morning. I now have 3 cats. I keep making the joke about becoming the neighborhood's crazy cat lady. We joke about me buying the finest of moo moos and putting my hair up in curlers. Still, I'm glad he's here in his permanent home. Getting him integrated didn't take long at all, thank goodness. As I write this sentence, the two just-under-a-year-old kittens are playing chase all up and down the hallway and the 8-or-so year old is watching them with disdain from the window. We're five by five here, in other words.
I've been toying with the idea of taking a social media break and I think this upcoming long weekend will be the day to do it. I'll be back soon, of course, but I'm out for the next few days. Gonna go back through Code: Geas maybe, get caught up on grading, etc.
As always, thank you for your support of the books. It means the world to me that you guys are so positive and supportive of them.
Talk to you again next month!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The other D in DABDA

July was jam packed, so it seemed to fly by quickly.
My mother, my sister and her kids came in for a visit, which was fantastic. Not only did I get a chance to show them around the town, but we also loaded up and went to see Mt. Rushmore. It's not that I have some kind of massive reverence for the site, but this if you've been following these blogs you know that while I was growing up, we didn't do this type of stereotypical family stuff. Being able to do it now is really nice. By the way, if you get a chance to go to Rushmore, GO. When I went to Devil's Tower, it very much looked like it looks in movies (though I was still happy I went), but Rushmore looks NOTHING like in the movies...it's really breathtaking in person. The level of detail is astounding. I swear at one angle, it's like there is a glint coming off of Teddy's eyes.
Unfortunately, that all meant putting off the landscaping work I wanted done, so that won't start until next week.
I don't know about any other creators and what they are seeing, but I can see a drastic difference in the traffic to this blog now that the EU has their new law in place. I mean drastic. So, let me say this: if you're reading this, you're someone who has decided to stick around despite cookies, and I appreciate it.
I spent a lot of the last few months ranting, raving, retweeting political things on my personal Facebook and on Twitter. I've decided to cut way, way back on that. Not that I'm worried about any kind of retribution, but more that it seems like no one is listening. And I get that--I mean, when someone happens to come across my feed with something pro-Republican or worse, pro-Trump/pro-Jeff Sessions, I shut it out, too. I truly cannot see any way to even have a level headed conversation with those points of view (especially considering that, for most of them, I am considered some kind of evil at worse, and at best someone who is sick and desperately in need of therapy to be "fixed"). Every time Jeff Sessions holds a press conference, people like me lose rights. At any rate, it's likely going to cut down on my traffic on Twitter, but I'm okay with that. On the DABDA scale, I've reached "depression," the other D. It's going to take us at least a decade to undo the damage these people have done in just two years. I've said it several times, but when I finished the book that's next to come out, I never once in a million years thought I'd be living *in* that world just a year and some change later.
Speaking of the writing, with family in, you can imagine that work on the current novel has slowed to a crawl. The book is also about politics and the personal call to action, so it's a kind of therapy in a way.
I did finish up work on the academic book and I turned it in, as I mentioned last blog. I'm betting I'll be getting notes back from the readers sometime in the next few weeks.
It's hard to believe, too, that it's already almost time for school to start again. Time to start thinking about working out schedules of reading, putting syllabi together, etc. A sobering thought: the incoming freshmen this year were all born in the year 2000. That's insane to me.
As always, thank you so much for your support of the books. We'll see you here, again, next month!