Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Ghosts of the Past

March 8, 2015

I’m long overdue for a wrap-up of my ghost trip. I’ve been putting it off for some reason. It’s not that I’ve been waiting on photos – I had those processed and uploaded the day after I made it home. Not waiting for mental processing, either – I do all my thinking on the road, and haven’t really done any more since. No, really. No thinking at all.

It’s more due to the fact that I came to a big, scary realization on the road, one that I’m only slowly beginning to tell my friends and families about. And yes, it’s shocking people every bit as much as it shocked me to discover.

I don’t want to be an author.

Dude. Gentle reader, you may or may not know how huge that realization is. I’ve written throughout my life, ever since my first short story was published in the Saipan Sun at the tender age of 6 (it was pretty bad, but it was the family newspaper that my dad photocopied at his office so the standards weren’t super high). I wrote my way through high school and college, and wrote on into my career, where the word Writer became a part of my title in my jobby job.

Still, there was this feeling that it wasn’t enough. A writer does not become an author until they are published, and you’re only published if you write every day, and follow through with query letter after query letter, and ballsy introductions to agents and acquisitions editors at hotel bars during conventions.

So I did it. I joined the board of a writing association, I queried (some of which were accepted), I schmoozed. But my heart wasn’t in it. And I tried to write in my chosen genre every day, and every time I skipped it, I felt guilty.

The guilt grew. I didn’t talk about it. I wrote less. The guilt got bigger. I started talking about it, bitterly. But I never attacked that core assumption: that a writer must desire to be an author.

I don’t. And it took this trip for me to realize that, to allow me to release that ghost from the past.

How will this change things for me? Meh. Probably not much. I’ll still write every day (I mentioned my day job is Writer, right?). I’ll still blog, especially while traveling. I’ll still write short stories when the mood catches me. I’ll likely still do NaNoWriMo (cuz it’s awesome). But I’m releasing the guilt. I’m releasing the feeling that Author must be my career goal.

Man, is it freeing. There’s this project that I’ve had on the side, where a friend and I work with teenagers around the idea of beauty and societal values, then help them put together their own beauty mag, and I think I’m going to shift some of my drive over in that direction.

It’s also terrifying. I told a friend at work about my revelation, and proceeded to wig out a bit on her. Writing and aiming for publishing has always been my main creative outlet. What do I do without it? She brought out her ukulele and let me harmonize to “Hallelujah” and “Blank Space” to prove it wouldn’t be a problem. She’s good people.

I’ll always have writing, I’ll have singing and photography and knitting and a host of other creative outlets. But y’know what? I’m cool if I never achieve pro status at any of those. I’ll be a blissful amateur.

And hey, what the heck does this have to do with road tripping? Umm… Nothing, really. This just wraps up the various paths my mind was wandering down while I was physically wandering. And I’ve gone on so long, I think I need to do another wrap-up that’s a bit less in the mind. But the road trip epiphanies are about 80% of the reason that I love traveling that way, so this felt like the piece that had to be wrapped up first. Thanks for putting up with the detour; more awesome photos of bizarre places coming soon.

Amargosa Performance

Falling Leaves

February 15, 2014

I grew up in bookstores.

When I was eight, my family moved back to the States after a couple years on a typhoon-ridden island1 Back in California, with its lovely beaches and high cost of living, my mom had to get a job to help us make ends meet. Enter Books West, the only new book store in the five-cities area. She worked there for 15 years, until the owners retired.

Books West was my house for 10 years. Instead of being a latch-key kid, my mom insisted I hop on the bus and come down to her work. I read every book in the YA section, half the books in the mystery and sci-fi sections, and a smattering of books from farther-flung shelves, all for free. We even got to take home some of the ones that didn’t sell, their covers torn off and returned to the publisher as “proof” that we destroyed them.

It was paradise. I had my favorite hidey-holes where paying customers wouldn’t disturb me. Self-Help was largely unvisited in our beach town2. I would read from 3pm-6pm (closing), then we’d swing past Round Table and grab dinner before heading home.

Over the years, they employed me from time to time (as did the amazing used bookstore across the way), but for the most part, my hours in that house were full of lazy page-turning and idleness. I loved it. There’s kind of a golden haze over that whole period in my life.

Toward the later years, when I was no longer an indulged child and had to actually buy the books I read, I came across a very expensive, very enticing novel3. It was in the mystery section, and, unlike some of the silly you-solve-it books that I loved that began that section4, it was in fact a novel. But it didn’t look like any novel I’d ever seen; text inside changed fonts, colors, directions. White space was used like crazy. It was huge: 9x6ish, with at least a thousand pages5. I wanted that book like mad. But $21 was well outside my budget. I re-shelved it, and vowed to remember it.

And I did. Mostly. Everything but the name. Okay, I forgot almost everything about it. But it haunted me. I described it to other bookstore employees, in that maddening-customer way (“you know, it’s big and black and… just weird”), tried to quiz my friends with similar reading tastes, even searched the blossoming internet for sign of it (but “big black and weird” leads you down an internet rabbit hole that will never lead to a simple novel).

Years later, I finally found a friend who remembered it, who loved it. She gave me the name; I diligently marked it down. But the pull had lessened over the years, and I didn’t seek it out.

More years later, I fell into a leadership role for an apocalyptic book group. While soliciting recommendations from group members, one hesitantly mentioned this book. “It’s not really apocalyptic,” he said. “But it kinda is.”

All this is to say: I finished “The House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski today. And I feel a little bit more mentally unstable for having done so. But dang, was it worth the wait.

_____________

1 Oddly enough, my most vivid memories from the island are book related as well. During Super Typhoon Kim, we had to abandon our house and run to the neighbors, during what we hoped was the eye of the storm (it was not6). I tucked a Judy Blume book securely under my shirt before the run, and was nearly unconsolable when I discovered the wind had whisked it away. I was only brought back from tears when the neighbors shared their stash of Garfield books. After the typhoon truly had passed, there was great adventure to be had and much work to be done. My job was laying out the wet books from our house, squeezing out the water, and thumbing through the pages as they dried to get them to not stick together. Our library, even after we moved back to California, smelled like wet books for years.

2 Self-Help was also where I first discovered sex7, which led me to a treasure hunt throughout the store, particularly to the western section8, and taught me to refine my ability to scan for naughty bits.

3
none

4 Ken Weber, Five-Minute Mysteries (Running Press, 1989)

5 709 pages.

6 During the run, my mom was physically lifted up by the wind, and blown into the neighbor’s banyan tree. She broke a couple ribs. I don’t remember this – but my sister assures me it happened. What I remember was my lost book. I was kind of a shitty kid.

7 Nancy Friday, My Secret Garden (Trident Press, 1973)

8 Wesley Ellis, Lone Star #35 (Jove, 1985); pp 52-56, 74-75, 112-114.

Trust Everyone

February 3, 2014

I just had to get “Trust No One” off as the first post (especially since it’s been there for nearly a year)! 

But seriously, that’s closer to my feelings today. I just got back from an annual volunteer trip up to Bolinas, where I co-run a weekend workshop for teen girls aimed at redefining beauty. We do a slew of activities examining how beauty standards get imposed on us and either end up shaming us or trapping us in a struggle to be perfect that we will always, eventually, lose. We talk about other ways to define beauty, then I do a photoshoot with each girl as she portrays a particular beautiful quality. At the end of the weekend, I put together a little ‘beauty magazine’ that they get to take with them. It’s a gorgeous setting, on a farm in Bolinas, with winding paths in oak forests, horses on the property, and the a view of the lagoon down the hill. 

Image

And I hold in rolling my eyes, THE ENTIRE TIME. Because this is good work, and important practice. Because some nugget, somewhere, might stick with them and make them think. Because it can’t hurt to have a supportive group come together and tell you you’re beautiful, all weekend. 

When I was a teen? I would have been mocking this endlessly. I would have been rolling my eyes, and yawning. I’d heard all of it before. Yeah, yeah, it’s the media’s fault. Mmm hmm, impossible to achieve beauty standards. Whatever. You’re just saying this ‘cuz you’re ugly. 

This weekend reminded me of the importance of holding that snark in. I’m trusting those girls to take what they can from this workshop, to listen and bring in the important points, and to appreciate what we created together. And today, I feel dang good about that trust. 

I feel dang good about THIS, too!

Bad Ass Faeries: It's Elemental book cover Bad Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental is now available for pre-order! With a story by ME! Faerieland Local 2413 tells the story of a nickar water faerie on the railroad. I am so excited – I loved this story, and it actually kicked off more stories set in this world, some of which are still in my head, some of which may be popping up soon… 

That’s all for today. Trust everyone. You’re beautiful.

Just Write Through It – Exponential Sins

August 27, 2012

I’m going to admit to two things that I’ve been shamefully hiding from most of the world, or at the very least, downplaying drastically.

– I’ve been pretty depressed.

– I have not been writing.

In my head, both of those are shameful, and to be hidden. (I know, I know. But my head goes where it wills, no matter what I try to tell it. Stupid, stupid head.*) And both of them contribute to the other, and not in a straightforward algebraic way. Each issue increases the other exponentially.

I’ve written through my troubles before. The kind of sadness and anger that you face when you lose a loved one, or a loved car, or you hate your job with a fiery passion, or you’ve just been mugged… that’s a funk I can write through. Writing helps me process the pain, and the pain does sometimes even serve as inspiration and fodder, as romantics all agree. The myth of the tortured writer, and all that.

But this. This feeling, the feeling that nothing in the world is bearing down on you, at least no more than regular, and so if you feel this shitty, it MUST be your fault… that’s a hard feeling to write through.

We are young. We are strong. We’re not looking for where we belong. We’re not cool. We are free. And we’re running with blood on our knees.

Oh, man. Mika just came up in iTunes. Did you know it’s really hard to maintain a funk through some all of his songs? That’s the sign of a pretty awesome pop star, if you ask me.

Try it. Just try listening to this, and keeping a frown on your face.

Okay. Shit. Where was I?

So, I get down on myself. And I sink into the couch, and my WIP languishes as I re-watch Dr. Who, and the self-loathing mushrooms as I lose sight of myself as a writer, which makes me fear writing even more, which makes me even angrier at myself… **

I hate days like this. When it rai-rai-rains, when it rai-rai-rains. Baby, I hate days like –

Oh, god. Seriously, if you didn’t click the above video, just try it. Turn on some Mika, and see if you can keep a good, morose, whining rant going. Damn it, it’s hard. I may have just found my solution. I’m gonna get some earbuds and just listen to Mika, constantly. I might end up writing some cheery fucking bubble-gum romance shit, but I’ll be writing.

It’s nothing like a life we wanted, but you better move on, cuz I’m ready for more than this, whatever it is. Baby, I hate days like this. Caught in a track, I can’t get back, baby, I hate days like this.

Sure, it’s artificial. It’s a high that will soon burn off. If I use it properly, it doesn’t matter. I just need a kick; if the buzz gets me writing, then the credits start multiplying exponentially as well. I’m a writer again. And even if nothing else changes, what would you rather be: a tortured writer, or a depressed couch potato?

Which one of those choices gets you more action?

 

 

Obviously said in Judy Davis’ best mocking voice. Stupid, stupid rain. 

**Is there an artist out there who can draw me some self-loathing mushrooms? Because I’ve got a pretty clear image in my head, and it’s cracking me up.

#notwriting

August 19, 2012

Oh, I had good intentions today. I woke up before seven, ready to jump into the blank page. But since I woke up so early, I decided there was time for a bath. Then, after the bath, I had to make tea. Then, I began my pre-writing ritual of clearing out my rss reader, and ‘warming up’ on my blog.

It is now almost nine. I have an appointment at 9:30. That means I spent over two hours on all the pre-writing crap, just to get to the warm-up stage. More upsetting is the fact that I seem to be doing this more and more. I think I just need to move the writing part up in the ritual. Before my eyes open, I should be warming up here, on the blog, letting the words flow while my mind is still muddy and doesn’t know what my fingers are doing. Hey, that’s my theory of exercise: get the running shoes on and be out the door before my brain knows what hit it.

I sabotage myself, I know. I always feel like I have the best intentions, but I’m pretty sure I’m fooling myself. If I had wanted to write today, I would have written. My subconscious intentions are crap, and they all want to bathe.

Right. I still have 35 minutes. I’m not going to let my subconscious get the best of me.

#amwriting

The Foul Genre Aftertaste

June 3, 2012

I’ve been having a lot of the same conversation recently.

Me: “Oh, you read (insert genre fiction title, most often Hunger Games or the like) too? What did you think?”

Them: “It was good… you know, for the type of book it is.”

or: “I enjoyed it. Not, you know, deep, but fun.”

Why, why, why do people feel they have to qualify these statements? So you read a book for pure enjoyment. So you didn’t have to parse a Rushdie-esque paragraph, searching for subtext and historical parallels to figure out what’s going on. So your mind wasn’t totally expanded (though, personally, the conversations I’ve had based on Hunger Games certainly introduced more debate and civic rumination than, say, A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering you-know-what).

Let’s talk history here, folks, ignoring our greek and eastern literary heritage, and focusing solely on the novel as it exploded in popularity after the invention of moveable type. Whether you call Aphra Behn, Defoe, or Richardson the first novelist, they were all pretty well considered to be, if not lowbrow, certainly not writing for the upper classes. The novel was designed to entertain, and to entertain the middle class, specifically. The very best novels did make you think about what was happening, be it slavery, colonialism, or economic reform, but first, they entertained. They were designed to go down easier than greek histories and philosophical tracts. They were written to be the easy, fun reads of the time.

I have no problem with literary fiction; some of my best friends are literary novels. I just think there’s a more important distinction to make than the one between literary and genre fiction, especially with the meteoric rise of self-pubbed books: Bad, and Good.

I have no problem with you looking down your nose at 50 Shades of Grey. But not because of the niche it fills – please, please, call a spade a spade and admit that it’s bad writing. She obviously struck a chord, and more power to her, but it makes me cringe to see people reading her book and then broadly dismissing all erotic fiction (and their talented, savvy authors).

The process of writing, of constructing a compelling novel with complex, interesting characters and pitch-perfect pacing, is not easy. It is an art. And the artists that do it well deserve respect, regardless of the genre they happen to be writing in. So please, the next time you ‘admit’ to liking something, consider why you like it, and if it’s because the author skillfully caught your interest and held it, please rephrase your statement. Or you may get a bop in the nose from me.

October Thanksgiving

November 2, 2011

Y’all. I missed October. I’m still kind of stunned.

I know exactly how it happened. I was working two full-time jobs, making edits to the short stories that are out on submission right now, trying to not ignore my Board duties for the non-profit I volunteer for, helping to run a monumental 15-hour Regatta, and attending my dad’s wedding. Still. October freaking disappeared.

I’m only wailing because October is the absolute best month ever. Anyone who thinks otherwise is simply wrong. The leaves are turning, Halloween is coming, the weather is getting cool and crisp, stunning storms and sunsets are prone to pop up, Halloween, and did I mention, Halloween. I first fell in love in October. I discover a new piece of myself every October.

Except for this one. Because I missed it. Damn it.

I did, luckily, have just enough time (one hour, in fact) to throw together a costume and hit both Journey to the End of the Night and my friend Julie’s party. At Journey, my rocket-ship buddy did me a solid and chased a few runners into my camera-sight:
man running through the night in SF

Then at the Carnival party of the century, I snapped a few more:
A clown behind Mo in a carnival ride car

So I got a bit of Halloween. A bit. But. For the first time in over ten years, I did not host a Halloween party. I didn’t even decorate the dang house. And my costume was a pretty severe cop-out; I took the SFist idea of Fisherman’s Wharf Bush Man and threw on a pair of jeans and a BBQ grate threaded with tree clippings.

I didn’t completely miss Halloween, but the entire month did fly past me. As such, I think I need to take a moment and be thankful for the blessings in my life. Yes, I know, most people do that in November. Not me. In November, I’m writing like crazy, and besides, who doesn’t feel more thankful when walking past darkened cemeteries as strains of the Danse Macabre float through the air? ‘Kay, maybe it’s just me. Whatever.

• I’m thankful for crinolines, striped overalls, clown masks, and all types of costumed wonder. (Seriously, people went all out at that Carnival party. Still thankful.)

• I’m thankful for my family, and the fact that I live just a stone’s throw from my sisters. Dad’s wedding was gorgeous (evidence here) but it reminded me that some people only ever see their family at weddings. In fact, there was an awesome cousin there that I’d love to see more of… but she’s, like, four whole hours away. So, y’know, an eternity.

• And, putting those two together, I’m thankful for my sister who got rid of one of her crinolines, and 10 more bags of clothing. Professional attire: check. Why did I need the professional attire? Well…

• I’m thankful for my new job. Really, really thankful. Not only do these guys have a system DOWN (seriously, I’ve never been more set-up to succeed), I get to see pretty much every show in the Bay Area. On my second day, I scored a ticket to Richard III, starring Kevin Spacey, at the Curran. My sisters are already staging mud-wrestling contests and pistols at dawn over the Baryshnikov show. The perks are amazing, the coworkers seem great, and the work itself will be both satisfying and interesting, I can already see.

• While I’m at it, I’m thankful for my old job. It was a challenging, thrilling ride that prepared me for just about anything, and through it, I’ve met some of the best people in the world, who are going to be friends for life. So a win. I shall miss the old place.

• I’m thankful for my first car, a VW Bug named Zsu-Zsu. Likewise, driving her prepared me for just about any other driving adventure. I can heel-and-toe with the best of them now, and now how to push a car down a street and jump-start it.

• I’m thankful for books, and writing, and writers. There is so much of this category in my life, and yet I want so much more. (By the way, I am NOT going to miss November; NaNo might kick my butt, but I will appreciate and savor every second of it.)

• I’m thankful for apocalypse kits. Not sure why writing led into this one, but it did. Maybe because of Aftertime (dude, I know the author! and it ROCKS!) or maybe because of Hunger Games (which also rocks, but I don’t know the author, so fewer exclamation points). Either way, I truly think a life-altering (if not life-ending) event is coming very soon, and I’m thankful that I have a meager preparedness plan set up. Really meager. Dang, I need a water filtration system. Or at least one of those cool filter water bottles.

That’s it for now. Happy Thanks-tober!

Practically Magical

August 14, 2011

Some days, I wonder why I love Practical Magic. Every other day of the year, I re-watch it and I wonder why anyone would fail to love it.

Yes, I am going to break my long blog silence by waxing lyrical about a Sandra Bullock movie. Suck it up, or look away now.

I watch this movie regularly, ever since it came it out. Which means I’ve probably seen it about a dozen times by now. And the little bastard still makes me cry, just about every dang time.

I used to blame it on my own strong relationship with my sisters, and my predilection for all things witchy and Halloweeny. Plus, Aidan Quinn. And Euro-Clooney. It’s hard to beat all that. Throw in Dianne Wiest, Stockard Channing, and a kick-ass nineties soundtrack, and yeah, of course it’s awesome.

Still, enough people have questioned my sanity on this (20% on Rotten Tomatoes; that’s lower than both Your Highness, SuckerPunchand every single one of the Final Destination movies) that I felt I had to examine my affection after watching it yet again tonight. I turned it on to fall asleep to… then it wouldn’t let me sleep.

I mean, come on. ——–>
Wait, what was I saying?

Oh yeah. So I deconstructed it. Not a feminist deconstruction, because that would probably make me a little ill, and pretty mad at myself for falling for it. Personal deconstruction, then, and plot deconstruction.

I took a closer look at the moments that whack me in the gut. It does, by the way, help if I’m really tired and a little bit emotionally unstable when I watch this movie. Invariably, these gut-punchers rotate around Sandra’s relationships. Her and Aidan’s first kiss. When he turns away, could it be forever? Oh, the pathos. A moment when she’s lying nose-to-nose with her sister, in tears. There are an awkwardly high number of those scenes in the movie, and yet they still get me.

What makes these moments satisfying? It’s not the writing. Or the direction. Or even the acting (I love you Sandra, but it’s not). It’s the completeness. The yin/yang of the circle coming together. Western lawman meets Eastern pagan woman. Sister of Chaos clasps hands with Sister of Order.

It’s a pretty darn satisfying plot device. It’s not the ‘unfinished chord’ that a certain awesome someone was talking about at RWA today, that lingering note that an author refuses to tie off simply in order to tantalize her audience. The story may not prey on your mind and captivate you (in fact, in this case, I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t), but it soothes. Like comfort food for the over-stimulated mind. Like eating a lunchables box for dinner, complete with the Caprisun Cooler. Apparently I needed soothing tonight.

I value the fact that I am a complete person, in and of myself. I’m kinda my own yin and yang; I used to describe myself as glitter lipgloss and steel-toe boots. I’ve always wanted another complete person as a partner; I never wanted anyone to ‘complete’ me. And I still don’t. I recognize real life from cunningly (if not expertly) crafted fiction.*

And yet, there are these tired, late night moments. It doesn’t help when I think about the wonderful couples around me. They all seem to be perfectly balanced complements to each other. Two of my best friends make a couple that I tend to refer to as the pocket vegans, or just ‘the girls,’ in a simple homogenizing way, even though they are actually as yin and yang as you get.

In the morning, these simplistic generalizations will be revealed for the complex realities they actually are. I’ll remember the fact that these couples share world outlooks and amazingly kind hearts, and other similarities that are much more important than their differences. But right now, I think I’ll go to sleep wondering about my yang.

Okay, that just sounds wrong. Strike that. Instead, I’ll leave on this lovely, Aidan-in-a-hammock-from-another-movie-I-hate-to-love note:

*totally, totally not talking about Hoffman’s book – just the movie.

Writing Blog Pitfalls

July 4, 2011

As I mentioned, I use this blog to kick off my writing. It serves as the pressure-free blank page, and wakes my mind up gently. It’s actually doing quite well at its job.

Of course, there are exceptions. Yesterday I went for a hike in Golden Gate Park with the Boonie dog. I brought my computer so that I could find a nice shady spot with a me-shaped depression at the base of a tree. There are a lot more of those me-shaped spots than you would think.

I found a perfect tree and, since I was off-line, opened up my old Writing Journal .doc file to get started, as well as my WIP. The WIP (a fun story about trolls that I’m having trouble ending) was never touched. Somehow my “here’s where I am, this is what I’m thinking” blog post turned into a very dark story about an urban park that has become street-wise and eats little chihuahuas.

I suppose that’s not a pitfall, since my only intent that day was to write a story, and I did, in fact, write a story, but it still feels like I cheated somehow.

I am now seated in my back yard garden, enjoying the shade and the jasmine. I will now move directly to my WIP, with no fun and horrific detours along the way. Thank you, nothing more to see here.

Not totally in the mood for love

June 25, 2011

Late last year, I was coerced seduced invited to become a volunteer Board member for my local Romance Writers of America chapter. It was a pretty doggone good choice; SFA-RWA is a staggeringly fantastic group of strong women writers that I’m thrilled to be a part of. Though I’m a genre-jumper at heart (and will be until I really find my voice), I’ve found myself writing more and more romance, just to be a bit more like these awesome authors.

But I have a secret. One that came out on a date last night. I’m not totally sure I’ve ever been in love. And dude, I’m 32. That’s kinda embarrassing.

Oh, there’s been puppy love, and infatuation, and sincere like, but nothing that felt true enough or lasted long enough for me to say, “THAT. That’s love, ennit.” I’m not wholly convinced that anything different exists; what if we’re all talking about the same thing, except some folks talk it up more? Kinda like my old stoned-in-high-school conversations about color. If I say that’s blue, and you say that’s blue, how do we know we’re talking about the same blue? Your blue might be my yellow. Everything’s relative, and just because we share a language doesn’t mean I have access to the truth of your experience.

Maybe it does exist, and maybe some day it will smack me over the head with a frying pan. I’m keeping an open mind. But I refuse to fall in love just for the sake of being in love. If it ever does happen, it will be because I’ve actually found someone I actually want to give up some of my precious free time for.

Showing my lack of respect for the Heart

Also, hey, congrats NY! I may not convinced true love exists for me, but I’ll be damned if I’ll keep others from committing to it.