Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wednesday Wanderings

I've never been much caught up in the consumer desire for the newest, latest, and greatest.  (I did stop and think about whether to use the Oxford comma there.)  When shopping or choosing what to listen to / read / watch, my only interaction with release date is availability ... which means that if I actually had Netflix, I probably would be buried in five year old television.

I've never understood the lure of the movie theater in terms of seeing something as soon as it is available.  (I was rather irritated by Agents of Shield playing off the Captain America movie on the apparent presumption that anyone following the series would see the movie in the first week.)  Grant that part of it is because I really dislike movie theaters - crammed in the dark with other people, can't kibitz to your neighbors, can't sprawl back in comfort, have to keep your shoes on, no bathroom breaks - and will generally only patronize them as a social exercise or if the movie is visually spectacular in a way that would benefit from theater viewing.  What's the big deal with waiting 3-4 months until it comes out in video or On Demand?

When it comes to books, I know that I should follow the list of new releases to keep a finger on what's hot now, but I somehow can never do it.  For one thing, I hate reading a book that ends with a cliffhanger if I can't immediately pick up the next volume.  I don't do well with enforced waiting, and I am likely to completely forget about aforesaid cliffhanger as a defense mechanism.  For about a decade, I think, my policy was not to read a book in a series unless the entire series was complete (or it was a loose series, wherein the books aren't necessarily directly dependent on each other).

I eventually relaxed my stance on this, but I still simply don't buy hardcovers unless I'm absolutely wild about the author and series.  The last one I purchased, I think, was one of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.  As with the movies, I don't understand what's so terrible about saving one's pennies and waiting a few months until it reaches paperbacks.  The idea of basing the success of a book on its sales in the first few weeks, to me, makes slightly less sense than reading entrails.

So I spend a lot of time at Half Price Books, picking up whatever looks interesting.  I trawl the backlog of authors I've read in anthologies (or occasionally met in person).  My fiction purchases have very little to do with timeline, with the exception of the fact that when I go to read an author who writes a series, I try to find the oldest book - in the chronology of their world, not the intended read order.  I'm a rebel (and probably a pain) like that.

Similar deal with music, only ... well ... worse.  I've never liked listening to radio, where you have no control over what music you listen to and you're likely to hear the same song ad nauseum.  (It was on at work one day, and I swear I heard "Exes and Ohs" four times. While I actually liked the song, I was bloody sick of it by then.)  So I find new artists by chance encounter, recommendations by friends, Amazon heuristics ("People who bought X also bought ..."), and Pandora.  I listen to snippets, take a chance, buy a CD.

This means I'm often late to the party with an artist, but it's my party, and I'll sing if I want to.

This probably hampers me from a marketing standpoint.  So Flow has been out a few years now and is no longer a new release ... so what?  That doesn't make it less excellent as a novel.  (That goes also for my other releases - shameless plug!  But that's not the point of this post, so I digress.)  The idea of pre-ordering something is foreign to me; I've only done it once, and that was specifically to support a friend's Kickstarter.  So it feels a trifle odd to ask people to do something I wouldn't ...

But doing things in my own time has been a theme of my life (see:  starting harp in my late teens; going to college in my early thirties), and I don't think it's likely to change.  So I will continue to drift through, blissfully unaware of anyone else's timing.  When you're absorbed in something, the only time that matters is now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday Wanderings

In working on edits for a short story of mine, I've realized there is another difference between forms - short stories versus novels - besides length and complexity.  That difference is time.  With the exception of NaNoWriMo novels or those written by prolific full-time writers, the average novel takes months to complete.  Even for those swiftly scribed, add in the time for rewriting, revising, copyediting, submission ...

And in that time, the writer changes, is no longer the same person she was when the idea was first born, when the first words were written.  Life happens; the world happens.  In the last six months, I graduated from culinary school and settled into a new routine with my job.  And we've certainly all had more eventful periods of time.

We change; we edit.  We change again; we edit more.  But our previous outlooks, perspectives, and personas aren't completely erased with revisions, which makes a novel a garment of human layers, an unconscious history of the writer.  Maybe that's part of what makes them so compelling ... and part of why we react so violently when favorite writers turn out to be bigoted, racist or abusive.  We've had intimate contact with the development of their lives.

Unnatural Causes deals in part with truth and deception, with the right to privacy versus dangerous secrets.  A (short) story I've been finishing lately, Based On A True Story, touches upon similar themes ... and the eyes that will go back to edit both have been forever changed by recent global events.

Of course, short stories often have similar, even longer, time lapses between original write and editing - and sometimes even beginning to finish.  It's a matter of degree - just like length and complexity, really.  A short story is a photograph; a novel is a video.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

My Heart Is Sad

I didn't know exactly what had happened in Paris at first, only that it was something terrible.

I was sick and exhausted that day.  I needed all my energy just to recover from grocery shopping enough to make it to work.

Waiting in the hall for the bridal party to enter the reception, we folded black napkins and talked about the end of the world.  Terror attacks in Paris.  A natural disaster in Japan.

Later, I found out the details and learned about the other attacks.  An outpouring of reactions on social media.  Hands reaching out to help.

My heart is sad, a pervasive chill.  My heart is sad for the lives lost; for victims who were simply enjoying life, celebrating it at a concert or along busy streets.  My heart is sad for those who have lost family or friends, and those still waiting to learn their fates ... and both thinking the other camp is lucky.  Is it better to still have hope or better to know?

My heart is sad because for some, the response was to push their political agenda, while others delighted in pointing out their pettiness, somehow feeling that was morally superior.  My heart is sad because there are people for whom the triumph of their viewpoint is so important they genuinely believe tragedy is lessened if it becomes a call to action.

My heart is sad because everyone believes they are right.

The life of a homeschooled child:  I overslept the morning of the 9/11 attacks.  When my mother awakened me to explain what had happened, I at first thought she was telling me a macabre joke.

That morning, we all left an era where such stories could never be true.

My heart is sad because Leonard's Bernstein's words have become a rallying cry for artists:  “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

My heart is sad because it feels as if my music has fallen quiet.

My heart is sad because I feel I should be shattered, I should be in tears.  I am not.  My heart is sad because it seems my reaction is a shadow of what should be.

My heart is sad because I am surrounded by the best moments in people's lives:  their weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, parties.  My heart is sad because I have built up a tolerance to their happiness.  My heart is sad because I react to the presence of a toddler in a wedding procession with annoyance; my mind ticks off the minutes of wedding speeches so I can do my job.

A newlywed couple last night had their young daughter (I am assuming from a previous marriage, but there are other possible stories) sing Sara Bareilles' "I Choose You."  I stood at the carving station teary-eyed.

It is a privilege to be a part - however small - of so many happy moments, a piece in a blissful puzzle.  And maybe that is my response and my role:  to perfect the business of happiness so no one has to worry about the details, merely relax into the rhythm of their best day.

My heart is sad for the moments that will never be, but dear world:  we will never stop making more of them.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Wednesday Wanderings

Many years ago, I took an advanced writing course through UCLA Online.  (I was the only fantasy writer, but I don't recall having trouble with genre.  I do recall being sort of bored with some of the other writers' plots.  Come on, where are the sword fights and dragons?  This needs more dragons.)  The book I was working on at the time, Fey's Call, was an ensemble tale, but focused on reluctant heroine Tillian.  Her first scene, she's about to meet up with her brother, who works for a group of rebels, and she's excited to see him again.  This leads to his disappearance and then death, which sets her on a collision course with both his rebel allies and the authorities.

I was pretty floored when one of the other students said that the relationship sounded incestuous.  It had never even crossed my mind that anyone would read it that way.  I went back and studied the scenes, and maybe - maybe - could see it, but it was a stretch.  I talked with someone outside the course about this, and they thought that perhaps it was reader bias - they were predisposed to such interpretations.

But I've always written about and been fascinated with family interactions, particularly siblings - despite, or perhaps because of, being an only child.  I'm drawn to fictional families who are tightly knit and deeply loyal.  What happens when a family member betrays you?  If they commit a terrible deed?  On the flip side of it, I love to write villains / antagonists who are nonetheless protective of their families and draw the line at anything that might hurt them.  It's a dichotomy that intrigues me so much that I'll confess, when it comes to roleplaying games, I've just avoided making it a personal cliche.

You can have similar dynamics with friends or lovers, but this doesn't draw me as strongly.  Shades of predestination, perhaps:  you don't choose your family.  Then there's also the societal aspects.  Society has its own expectations of when a person should cut ties with a family member, and it doesn't always line up with personal experience.  Then there's guilt by association.  How do you deal with a family member dragging you down by nothing more than their chosen existence?

Or fame by association ... how do you step out of the shadow of a prominent sibling?  One of the stories from the old Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine that always stood out to me was about sorcerous siblings, one of whom believed she was created - that she only existed - to protect her sister, that she wasn't important on her own.  That thought struck me to the core.  It haunted me.  I ended up writing a short story series (long before I was trying to get short stories published; it became more of a serial) about a girl who tries to pave her way out from under a famous sister ... and fails utterly.

And where in the world do you go from there?