Some Results

So I've been going on all spring and summer about the renovation project we've been working on at my mother's home in the wilds of western Louisiana, promising all the while to post pictures when I have them. Problem is, at the end of the day we are normally so dead-dog tired that I either forget to take any photos, or forget to upload them when I get home. Finally, though, I've managed to get a few off my camera to share.

I had the foresight to take some "before" pictures just before we started work in late March. Unfortunately, instead of planning my pictures around future projects, I just walked around randomly shooting things. Therefore, some of the after pictures correspond to before shots, and some don't. Still, it's amazing, even though we are still so early into the project, how much impact our hard work has had. It looks totally different, and that makes it very much worthwhile.

I'll also post these on my Facebook profile, if anyone is interested...

Front of House Before

Front of House After

Front Bed #1 Before

Front Bed #1 After

Front Bed #2 Before

Front Bed #2 After

As you can see, we've mostly limited our work to outside the house for the moment, cleaning and replanting my mother's flower beds, gardens, and removing 40 years worth of pack-rattery and just plain stuff that has accumulated. It's hot, dirty work - but it more than makes up for it with sheer psychological impact. We are watching the landscape literally transform before our eyes, and whenever I feel like we are spinning our wheels, so to speak, all I have to do is go back and look at these photos again to see the difference our work has made.

26 June 2009

No title today. I don't feel like it. Damnit, why should I always have to put a title on these things? This is supposed to be a journal, where I write whatever I want. I'm tired of reading advice posted here and there about using blogs as a self-promotion tool for writers, especially those breaking into the business. But how can readers get a feel for who I am and where my stories come from if I'm consciously constructing posts that ring false, even to my own ears?

I guess it's obvious that I'm in a bad mood today. Impatient. Easily irritated. I hate chaos and confusion. I prefer to write when I am calm, in my own space, curled up in the dark in my bedroom or office. I hate the days when I spend the whole thing chasing after time to sit down and catch my breath. Today has been like that.

Related to paragraph one up there, I haven't twittered all weekend. I haven't posted to Facebook. Instead of slogging through hundreds of unread posts in Google Reader, I just deleted them all this morning. Honestly, I don't know how people do it. How do you post, and comment, and answer, and post some more, all while writing and living anything resembling a normal life? I think I need to step back somewhat, and take a breath. It's all becoming overwhelming.

Despite the fact that I've gone against instinct and put myself out into the public with a web page, twitter account, facebook, myspace, blah, blah, blah, I'm aware that I don't have many readers. I'm mostly speaking into the ether, and most of the time all I hear are my own words echoed back from the blackness. That's ok. I'm going to stop worrying about how much I post here, or there, or whatever. If I have something to say, I'll say it. Otherwise, I write. I'm not doing this for the money, or any potential fame. I write because it's what I do. Period.

I don't need another reason, another outlet, another "connection". I just need me.

15 June 2009

Review: The Strain by Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan

I have to be honest – I initially picked up The Strain because of Guillermo del Toro’s name plastered across the front – “From the Creator of the Oscar-Winning Pan’s Labyrinth!” I’m a big fan of del Toro’s, and in fact I loved Pan’s Labyrinth as well as his more recent Hellboy 2. He brings a surreal vision, a dark fairy tale-like quality to his projects that I admire. From a writer’s perspective, however, I have to say I feel for Chuck Hogan, overshadowed as he most certainly is by his co-author’s celebrity. In any case, I’m a long-time fan of vampire fiction and mythology as well, so I figured it was worth a read.

The book is the first in a trilogy about an old world vampire who hitches a ride aboard a passenger jet from Germany to JFK in order to make lots of baby vampires and take over the world. Vampirism itself is treated as a disease (hence the title), and many of the old tropes about garlic and crosses are abandoned. On the opposing side, trying to save humanity, are CDC specialist Ephraim Goodweather, his assistant Nora, and, presumably in a nod to Stoker, Abraham Setrakian, an aged vampire hunter who survived the Treblinka death camp in World War II and has spent his life studying and preparing for this conflict.

I really liked the fact that this is truly a horror story – no handsome, moody, teenaged vampires here. I was actually really creeped out reading this thing in the middle of the night. These vampires are evil, and they’re scary, and they’re everywhere, hiding in suburban basements and subway tunnels, just waiting to jump out of the darkness and make a snack of anyone unlucky enough to cross their path. The authors are spot-on when it comes to keeping the action level just right and sustaining the fear factor, building to the ultimate showdown with the master vampire himself. It reads like a good fright-fest movie, and I say that as a compliment.

This, however, is the flip-side of what I didn’t like about the book. It was originally pitched as a script for a television series to Fox, and that’s exactly what it reads like. As I read it I couldn’t help but feel like I was reading a movie novelization. The characters, their dialogue, the settings, everything feels a bit contrived, as if I were reading the proposal for a movie. In the end, though, the good storytelling kept me interested, and that, on the most fundamental level, is what makes or breaks a book.
The Strain will never be considered among the canon of great American literature. It is what it is – a rollercoaster ride, a well-written horror movie, a summer fling. It’s fun to let go now and then, and give yourself over to an experience without having to think much. Bottom line – it’s a page-turner, and I liked it. Three stars.

11 June 2009

In This Kingdom by the Sea

"Becoming" is tearing my heart and soul to bits with red-hot tongs. Some stories come pouring out like blood onto the paper; some stories require more thinking and planning to be born; and some...some have to be pulled, kicking and screaming, fighting all the way. This is definitely one of those.

Every day I sit down, and stare at it. Then I go off on some tangent, checking email or twitter, or some such nonsense. Eventually I chide myself for procrastinating and get back to it, reading through and making corrections as I go (I'm an in-process reviser girl). Then I get to the end, and the blank space stares at me like the view from the gang plank, and slowly, tentatively, I start walking. Every sentence goes down at a cost. It's taking me forever to write, and I suspect it will take just as long (or longer, if I put it away to percolate for a while) to revise. Still, it's coming. Slowly, damnit, but it's coming.

Some good news today. The folks at The Absent Willow Review let me know that "The Last Fairy Tale" has been chosen to be included in their first-ever anthology, to be released at the end of this year. I'm absolutely thrilled. I love this story, and I loved the experience of writing it (on vacation in the middle of a beautiful forest). So, I'm happy for the news.

The LOML is still away, though, which tempers things. Hard to be apart from him for any length of time. We are very, very close. He is my best friend and confidante, the driving force behind my decision to be a writer, my cheerleader and my other half. I hope he is able to come home soon.

03 June 2009

Dog Days

Not much writing accomplished in the last few days. Friday I was coming home from a dentist's appointment for my son when I heard a progressively loud sound and felt my car tilting to one side. I was close to home, so I managed to hobble in on the flat without damaging my rim, which was good. Since the other three tires were nearing the end of their life spans, I decided to get them all changed, and so the rest of the day was devoted to getting that done. Saturday was an all-day visit to New Orleans to see my in-laws and do a little sight seeing, and Sunday I woke up in pain, which turned out to be a nasty UTI, which meant a doctor's visit followed by a pharmacy trip. I also had to bring the LOML to the airport, as he has a business trip to the UK this week.

Jeez. It's exhausting just talking about it.

I'm not terribly optimistic about today, either, as there is a pool to clean, a lawn to mow, and my favorite aunt who is home for only a couple of days which will require a visit. Tomorrow, though. Ah, tomorrow and tomorrow...

The good news is, I finally know where "Becoming" is going, and I left myself breadcrumbs so that when I can sit down again, I'll already be on the road. The novel, too, is progressing nicely, though I wish I could come up with a title. Summer is always a blessing/curse kind of thing, as the obligations that go along with two kids in school (homework, structured bedtimes and early risings) are gone, but in their place are kids who need to be supervised. I love having them home, but it makes searching for time to write a little more interesting. Taking care of the pool will help - they spend hours entertained and I can sit in the window and get things done.

Like I should be doing now.

01 June 2009

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