Here, But Not Quite

I knew this week I wouldn't get much done, what with end-of-the-school-year parties, award ceremonies, etc, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with psychologically. When I can't write I feel that constant pull in my subconscious, something akin to a mixture of hooky-guilt and an addiction. It's a constant longing that is only fulfilled by time spent pecking away, digging through my imagination.

Yesterday was fun. No, not really. I brought my car to a mechanic because the a/c is blowing hot air when I am idling at red lights, etc., and he announces that not only will it be $700 to fix that little problem, but that my brake pads are 90% worn and my rotors are warped, setting me back another $350. My nephew told me that the brake thing is much cheaper if you do it yourself, but I really don't relish the idea of driving off the side of a cliff somewhere because I managed to put my brakes back together wrong. So, around $1000 to make everything right, a huge blow to the budget. Can't be put off either, because turns out the a/c thing was due to the engine cooling fan crapping out, a situation which, if not remedied, could lead to engine overheating and the aluminum engine heads warping. Not good.

I did get a little writing done whilst sitting in a coffee shop waiting for the great news. Got about a thousand words on a new story, "Ghost in the Machine", which, unfortunately, I think I'll end up scrapping, because it just sucks. (Did that last sentence really need all those commas?) I want to go in another direction with it. Also got some work done on the novel, as I've changed my mind about the age of one of the major characters, so I had to go back and insert the relevant details in his scenes.

All in all it was kind of a blah day. Today will be better, as I'm heading out to see my little boy perform on stage and get his school awards. Have to pick up some chlorine for the kids' pool. Then home. To write. And get my fix.

20 May 2009

What I Want to be When I Grow Up...

With thanks to The Wonder Cabinet:

From Frederik Pohl's memoir, THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS:

"The times when a writer isn't writing are called "writer's slump." Everybody has it, at least now and then. Nobody, or nobody I know, is wholly successful at dealing with it. I don't know how to deal with it any more than anyone else, but what I do know is a way to postpone its happening, pretty well, most of the time, in a fashion that works, more or less, for me. What I do is set myself a daily quota of four pages. No more, no less; and I write those pages every day, no matter where I am, no matter how long it takes, if I die for it. Sometimes it takes forty-five minutes. Sometimes it takes eighteen hours. Sometimes I am reasonably satisfied with the words that go onto the paper, and quite a lot of the time I loathe them.

"but I DO them. If I miss, if I skip ONE DAY, the rhythm of the stride is broken and the shattered edifice of my life tumbles down on my head. So I do it every day, which means every day there is, including Saturdays, Sundays, Christmas, my birthday, the day I'm going to the dentisty to find out if I'm going to need a root-canal job, the day I fly to London, the day I am so badly hung over that my eyelashes bleed. I do my quota in airports, on boardwalk benches, and in commuter trains. I have been known to take my typewriter along on a weekend date. "Every day" means "every day,"and this is the first rule of writing for me."

12 May 2009

Review: The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown

The Donner Party incident has, over the century and a half since it was first publicized, become a part of the shared American history mythos. Unfortunately, it has also suffered from its notoriety – reduced to a sad tale at best and a punch line at worst. Like most people, I knew almost nothing of the tragedy itself when I picked up this book. I only knew the barest of facts – a group of wagon trainers caught in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains during brutal winter conditions who resorted to cannibalism to survive. As with all well-known historical episodes, however, there was, and is, much more to the story.

Instead of trying to focus on as many party members as possible, Daniel James Brown instead centers his narrative of the tragedy around one survivor, newlywed Sarah Graves Fosdick, who was only 21 when she set out with her husband and family on the journey. Through Sarah’s eyes, Brown is able to then illuminate the other victims much as another human being would, instead of relegating them to a catalog of facts.

The best history books transform their subjects from unknowable objects into what history truly is about – real people who dealt with monumental circumstances. Brown’s writing is superb, not only for having achieved this goal but for the way he brings us into what it meant to be alive in 1846. His research encompasses not only the Donner Party itself, but the social and economic forces which spurred the great American migration westward, along with practical and relevant knowledge about everyday life in the middle of the nineteenth century. All of these factors played a part in the choices these people made, and how those choices ultimately spelled their doom.

Daniel James Brown has written a seminal work on the history of the Donner Party incident. Anyone interested in this tragic, wholly American story would do well to read it.

11 May 2009

Back for a Bit

It's that time of year - May. This has become for me a month filled with end-of-school-year programs, award ceremonies, field trips, etc., etc. Yesterday was all day at a field trip out of town with my daughter, this morning was a P.E. program for my son, and Friday is another field trip with him. Yeah, I know I could miss them and stay home to work. But how many more years do I have? Not many. When they were born I made a vow to myself to not miss a thing, and it has been worth every bleary-eyed, WAY too early morning rise. Still, a girl's gotta have a right to whine now and again.

On a totally unrelated note, I have a little happiness to announce: The Absent Willow Review chose my story, "The Last Fairy Tale", as their Editor's Choice Award winner for the month of April. I was thrilled, to say the least. It's a really big deal for a new writer to have someone say, 'hey, not bad work.' Getting little things like this takes the sting out of the rejection pile, makes it feel worthwhile to keep going.

Miscellaneous catching-up to do today, paying bills, answering email, etc. Then novel work. Tomorrow I'll be out again, visiting my best friend in Slidell who had surgery on Monday. Thursday I'll be back, but out again for Friday, and possibly through the weekend. (Hey, it's Mother's Day weekend. I deserve it.)

05 May 2009

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