Thanks to some close listening and a bit of Google work (essay avoidance technique #124), I have figured out my mystery song. It's not called "Fallen" after all, nor is it from an album called Fallen, nor is it by Flogging Molly, so I really had nothing to work with in those departments. Instead, it's a song called "Collapse" from an album called Wiretap Scars by a band called Sparta. Woo! Now I'm off to investigate their other songs ... I mean, continue work on my essay due tomorrow. Right. Mutter, mutter.
Today I finished and printed the "4000 word essay" that's really topping 6000 words. Page count is what counts, I remind myself, and besides, it's done. I'm not nearly far enough ahead as I'd like to be on the other projects whose due dates are looming, but I have faith. It'll all get done ... somehow.
Also managed to write scene #2. Whew. It was happy to accept some material from previous drafts after all, so that made things somewhat easier. And this story has officially moved into novelette territory, and as I still have one more scene to write (and it promises to be one of the longer scenes) it'll take some serious editing to get it back into short story territory, if that's what it needs. We shall see.
In other news, I downloaded a song that's not what it was supposed to be. The good news is that I really enjoy the song--more than I do other songs by the band that I was originally looking for. The bad news is that since it's mislabeled, I have no idea who this song is really by, nor how to find anything else by them. "Fallen" is not exactly a unique song title--if that's even what it's truly called. And I'd just google a key part of the lyrics, but damn if I can understand the lyrics. Ah, but at least I have something new and interesting to listen to, there's always that.
Yay! Happy moment: I finally finished the first scene of "Ohntai." It's exactly the same series of events that I've been trying to get down for weeks--no, months--and yet now it just works. I stumbled across a sentence while scribbling in class and bing! Lights went on. I knew that was it. And I knew that I could just write and write from that line, though made myself put my pen down and pay attention to what was going on around me. The line waited paitiently until I got home.
For the curious, the line is:
Jackson stood in the tunnel, in the cold, in the dark, his tongue lying stillborn in the cradle of his mouth.
And yet I'm frustrated because the two remaining scenes (scenes #2 and 3 chronologically) are still dark to me. I know the sequences of events and the emotions behind them, just not the words in which to phrase them. Perhaps later tonight something will come to me, or tomorrow. Or Tuesday in class. Whenever, so long as something clicks in the near future.
I also hit a bit of a word stumbling block. The word "ohntai" is obviously key to the story; I'm not changing that (nor can I define it without ruining a major plot point, sorry). And I found a name for the alien race: Ieren. (Finally! I was getting tired of referring to them as the **.) Yet the appearence of those two words doesn't match. The key vowels in ohntai seem to be the O and the A, yet in Ieren the vowels are I and E. The best way that I thought to make the words feel believably similar (because neither particularly wants to change) would be to encorporate an H in the latter to match the former, and the best way to do that seemed to be to have an H replacing one of the Es. I liked the way that "Ihren" looks best of all. Only to discover that "ihren" is the German word for "your."
Hmm. This tells me two things:
1. I should really have my Grandparents teach me more German.
2. That it probably isn't the best word to use. Unless I can somehow encorporate "your" that into the meaning. Which I don't think I can. Damn. If it was "you" everything would be fantastic, but "your"? That's possesive. Mutter, mutter.
But does "Ierhn" get pronounced the same way? I am somewhat skeptical. Does "Iheren" work? I am all kinds of confused.
Just to note, this sort of stuff has only been occurring to me since I started figuring out the naming system for the Peak of the Ocean/"A Prayer of Salt and Sand" world (which, I was surprised to discover, is both rather complicated and important to the plot. Who knew?). And since I began to notice how certain letters/vowels/combinations give a feel to names and words, reading short stories in a fantasy world in which the names are just all over the place is becoming somewhat bothersome. Ah, just what I need ... another quibble.
It was such a gorgeous day today. Yes, it was overcast, and rained off and on throughout the day, but it was warm! The air felt soft and gentle, and I threw open all the windows and blinds to try and let as much of that air into the apartment as I possibly could. Sometimes I forget how much I love spring, when everything is new and waiting, and then all of a sudden becomes so vividly and shockingly green. (I may envy your temperatures, Floridians, but plants that see that much sunshine have forgotten how to be truly green.)
And though I was supposed to be chained to my desk and computer all afternoon, I just thought "Forget it" and put on my shoes and a light jacket and went out for a short run. In the rain, no less. And as I ran, singing to myself, I just could not stop smiling. Yes, there are essays and stresses and terrible things in the world, but it is warm outside, and rain feels so beautiful on my face.
There is a bird singing outside my window right now. It's dark now, almost black, and still there's a bird. I don't want to close my curtains. I don't want to forget how to be happy.
There have been so many things that I've found distressing lately, from the recent spate of anti-semitic vandalism in the west end of the city to the current craziness in the States about banning marriage for anyone but a single heterosexual pair. Bombings and suicide attacks and wars. It seems at the moment that the intolerance of the world is all but overflowing, and I don't even begin to know how to address the issues. And yet the focus of my life for the next few weeks is supposed to remain on essays and exams and just getting this stuff done. There were two protests in the past week and a half that I would have like to attend, but found myself tied to my computer instead. Does this count as speaking up? How can this be enough?
Today I went over to Atkinson to visit the people in the office where I used to work. Not entirely sure why I felt I had to go today, but I just got that sort of vibe, and trusting the vibe I went along. It's amazing how much things have changed there (people coming, going, changing offices...) and how much everything is exactly the same. The people coming up to the desk ask the same questions, and the phone rings, and the computer system goes down ... ah, Atkinson. Only two of the three people that I really wanted to see were there (the other is on vacation) but I had a good time getting the latest gossip and letting them know about my new job and all the rest.
Took a look at the file room (my file room!) and nearly fainted. All my hard work ... undone. The files are all half-on, half-off their shelves, and out of order, and the To Be Filed cart is literally overflowing onto the floor. Which is how it was before I got involved in the first place. Of course, I knew that everything would fall apart again eventually, but oh, how it hurt. I even started thinking, "Well, if the writing job's only part time, maybe on the days when you're on campus you could go over and work on these files. Paid, of course." And then I said to myself, "Have you totally lost your mind?" But I do like chatting with the people there, and hearing the gossip, and I could see working happily away on my files again (maybe with a CD player this time--a little ETH would really make the time fly).
Well, I've written about half of the 4000-word paper today. I should feel productive--after all, this puts me in very good shape to finish this essay on Friday, to write the other (shorter) paper due Tuesday this weekend, and then to get an exam written before Ad Astra. And yet ... the word count seems so slim, the hours so long. A combination of too many distractions and the tedious process of looking up bits of info, lines to quote and the like, I suppose.
Course, if I'd written those 2,309 words on "Ohntai" I'd be overjoyed right now. Perspective, me, perspective. I only have three scenes left, all at the beginning, and it's just not happening. No idea why. I feel like I'm scratching out sentences letter-by-letter in hardpacked dirt. I wonder if it's an indicator that I'm trying to do something wrong in those scenes (writing the info the wrong way? Starting the story too early? Too late? Writing a scene when a few lines would suffice?), or just the nature of the beast. I may have to start yelling at the thing again, see if that makes anything go.
But now I'm listening to the quiet singing of Sarah McLaughlan, and becoming sleepy, and thinking about curling up for a while to read. Not so long to go now. Not so long at all.
A few months ago I read in an issue of Locus that Kelly and Gavin at Small Beer Press had purchased the rights to Sean Stewart's next novel, A Perfect Circle, and would be publishing it by summer. This literally caused me to shout aloud in glee. I love, love, love Sean Stewart's work, and this novel has been lost in limbo for far too long. (It was, supposedly, going to be published by HarperCollins for a time. I know that there's a story in this; I just wish I knew what it was!) There's now a pre-order page up for the book, which you can get in either hardcover or trade paper. I opted for the trade paper, personally, due mainly to financial concerns, but I know that either will be gorgeous.
Small Beer will also be re-issuing Mockingbird, which is my absolute favourite of Stewart's novels. I keep threatening to make Sarah read this book (because she's only read the old, odd Sean Stewart novels, and thus has missed the joy). Course, others (*cough*M'ris*cough*) insist that Galveston is a better novel, so maybe I should push that at Sarah too. You know, just to be sure. If she's going to hate a book, shouldn't she be hating the best?
Today's project: write a paper about the Brontes. My stolen "three things per day" way of organizing myself has come to a screaming halt, not because of lack of motivation but rather because I'm down to just a few really big things. Task one: write a 4000 word paper. Do I really need a task two and three today? Really, one seems like enough for me to handle.
Still breathing. Life is an oil-and-water combination of enthusiasm and apathy these days. Just have to keep telling myself to just write the stupid essays, no matter how dull I think they are.
The story continues to grow in bits and pieces. Strangely enough, the online yelling-at-story that I did a few posts ago worked. Something clicked by the time I reached the end of that post and after hitting publish I went back to writing. Sometimes it is best not to question the quirkiness of writer-brain.
A few days ago I mentioned that I had a job interview. And a little while before I was laughing, overjoyed at potential and the weird workings of the Universe. Finally I can tell the rest of the story.
A little while ago I agreed to do some volunteer work for Carole. She was running this program for people who wanted to apply for York's Teacher's Education degree program to help them with all aspects of their applications. Part Two was to have someone look over their 500-word personal statements and give some assistance with both phrasing and content. Usually they have Teacher's Ed students do this, but they were a few short, and knowing that I am a writer and ever so smart Carole asked if I'd help out. I was wary, but agreed.
I worked my way through the day's appointments (which is a story in itself, but one that I really shouldn't post on the internet), and then was just hanging out in the little office until my next class in case someone wanted to come by without an appointment. I was reading The Golden Compass, if memory serves, and eating some of those 5 dozen sugar cookies that I baked when a man came by and was introduced to me by one of the women who works for the college. He wanted to talk to people about working at York, the York community, et cetera, and even though I explained that I wasn't working, they were both convinced I was someone he should talk to. Okay then, I thought.
So please note this is a pretty random meeting. They happened to notice this little office with its door open, and me munching away on my sugar cookies, and that was that.
Well, the man and I ended up having a really interesting conversation in which a few key facts were mentioned, the three major ones being A) that I had a blog and knew about online communities, B) that I'm a published author, and C) that I'm graduating, poor and in need of a job. He became very excited about my being a writer and all, and mentioned that someone might need a writer for a new project, and so I gave him my name and contact info and then had to rush off to class.
Over the next few days, this man, who turned out to be a consultant working for the Vice President of the University, talked to both Carole and the Vice President herself about me. Carole mentioned this to me, and so the call I received on Monday about a job interview did not come entirely out of the blue.
Yesterday I went in, and similar to my interview for the Town, this was less of an interview and more of a "Hey, we're doing this cool stuff, want to work for us?" kind of chat. Apparently both the consultant and Carole said amazing thing about me, so I came highly recommended. It's incredible. The job is basically to research and write a project proposal, with the potential to continue on and work for either the same people or for other aspects of this project. It's short term work, of course, and at this point neither I nor the woman who hired me know how long this project will last, how many hours I'll be required to work nor how much I'll be paid. But I'm actually not worried about those issues--I just continue to be positive and trust in good things and wait to see what happens.
But I have a job, a writing job, all from a totally random meeting. Somehow it's all incredibly funny to me. The Universe is such a wild place.
I felt so remarkably productive earlier today. Got a lot done, too, until I decided to take a break; everything just fell apart from there.
I've spent the evening feeling irritated with my story. I've come to a point where I've been working on this same small thing for so long that everything about it just seems wrong, not the least of which is its unfinished condition. Wrote some more. Decided that what I'd written sucked only incrementally less than the terrible stuff I'd had there before. Decided that I'd let it stand anyway.
Be active, I keep telling myself, my writing. Be specific. Be concise.
No, the story replies, I will be lumpy, and slow, and not hang together properly.
Why are you so passive? I ask the story in despair. The story shrugs.
What about you? I shout at Jackson. Why are you so freaking passive? Why can't I let you rage? Why do I have to force you to care, why do I have to shove your face in it? Why don't you want to save the world?
Jackson looks at me, and his expression is empty. His breath steams out in slow clouds, swirling and fading to nothing. I notice a bit of blood on the side of his right nostril. He looks at me, and looks at me, and then turns away.
Saw this at Stella's a day or two ago and fell in love. There have been times in my life when this was the theme song, and I didn't even realize it. I love to discover a thought fully formed on its own, shaped by another's hand. And when I'd counted three people that I just had to email this song to, I figured I'd just post it. So I did.
The Balance of Silence Between Held Breaths (Don't ask me; my fingers typed that one without my prior consent.)
Out of the semi-blue, I have a job interview on Thursday between my classes. Or something like a job interview. I think. Of course, my "job interview" shirt isn't here, not even in the wash. (Ah, the trials of having two closets over an hour's commute apart.) And since I get excited about these things--about the potential and the wonderful glittery futures--and then get thrown to the ground, I will instead be positive and open and amused by the workings of the Universe. Someone out there is amused, and right now I'm inclined to laugh with them.
The balance, of course, is that I'm still sick. Throat doesn't hurt, though it also doesn't not hurt (there's a lovely double negative for you), and something's settled in my chest. I have a rock pressing on my ribs, and my hand wants to reach for the Ventolin that I know won't help this asthmatic-sounding wheeze one bit.
"Ah," I said this morning in my throaty-sounding sick voice. "I see. I'm being tested." And proceeded to write the presentation that I have to give tomorrow afternoon.
In totally unrelated news, Enter the Haggis has a new video up on their site for one of the songs from the new album. Guess what I'm singing? Also, I managed to write the final scene of "Ohntai"--the final scene chronologically, I mean. Still have two and a half scenes to go. (Creeping, creeping, creeping...)
A conversation which occurred this evening, following some thinking about my recent use of certain descriptive words and phrases (which I have tried unsuccessfully to blame on the tag team of Marissa and Mary Gentle)
I just threw a book across the table in disgust--literally threw. It spun around a few times before coming to a stop. The book in question is Martin Amis' Money: A Suicide Note, which I started reading this morning and have read off and on throughout the day. My original opinion of the work was that it's a novel of unmitigated pretentiousness, self-indulgence and crap. Put simply: an overwhelming bit of bullshit. But I can deal with that; I've read stories about disgusting, gluttonous, self-absorbed, middle-aged alcoholics before, I've waded my way through tales of runaway capitalist greed. I don't even vaguely enjoy these things, but I've read them. And so I kept wading.
But my feeling of disgust grew, even knowing that this character was supposed to be revolting, being perfectly aware that I was to find his character repellant. That's clearly the author's intention, and congratulations, Martin Amis, it worked. But by the time I hit the line about how "this was a woman worth raping," worth doing the time in jail for--what does it matter, you can watch TV all day anyway--I'd had it.
And I threw it.
I DO NOT want to read this kind of bullshit, and you know what? I'm not going to. Class be damned. I'll say all of this to the professor if need be; I am not reading any more.
Part of my brain is trying to play devil's advocate: "You read The Painted Bird," it says, "the whole damn book. Surely this is no worse." And it's true: The Painted Bird was all kinds of nasty, running the gamut from violent murder to torture to bestiality, and I'm going to sell the damn thing as soon as the semester ends. But the thing is, that book was a reaction against all those things, a book written to express pain and outrage and dehumanization, to show the evil that is part of every human being's self.
Perhaps Money is a book about redemption. Frankly I don't care. The back dust jacket calls it "Ceaselessly inventive and thrillingly savage"; the reviewer for Guardian declared it to be "terribly, terminally funny." I say: bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Maybe it's just this unrelenting headache talking, but this is the first book that I own that I'd like to put through a shredder.
My throat is so many kinds of sore right now that I just don't know what to do. Woke up with this sore throat, which is the odd kind that connects painfully to my right ear, and thought, "What the hell?" Came right out of nowhere. I'm fine, fine, fine, sick. So I figured I'd just ignore it and it would go away. Well, that didn't happen so I switched my plan to slam it with throat lozenges, zinc and tea. Again, no deal. It's driving me batty. I'm hungry but I can't swallow without wincing, and talking is becoming difficult. Goddamn. I don't need this right now, really I don't.
Have completed--or, rather, worked on--all three things on today's list, so am feeling happy with myself. Probably going to work for a bit more on "Ohntai" this evening. Let me tell you, this story had damn well better be good after all this work. Progress is slow, but any progress is good. I have from mid-beginning to the second last scene written, with sentences and paragraphs of everything but the final scene written. So: four more scenes to write, and then I have to totally rewrite the material I have for the opening scene, which is a cobbled-together bits of all the relevant earlier attempts at this story. That was actually an interesting moment: I was taking bits from "Ohntai 1" and "Ohntai 2" (abandoned draft attempts--I'm currently on 3, and 2 has become the catchall file) but there were bits I remembered writing and just couldn't find. Which is when I remembered its original code name, and went to ransack "Doors," "Doors 2" and "Doors 3." (Proving everything I've said earlier about how many times I have to start and re-start and re-start again a story before I can get the thing to work.)
This is all just cementing my belief that it's about time that I work on something longer. (This and the still-ongoing experience of writing "I Breathe.") It doesn't take much more effort to write a long scene than it does one of these incredibly short scenes, generally. More actually-typing time, of course, but not more writing time. I'm throwing so much of myself, so much time and effort and energy into what are very short works on the whole. I just hope that what I'm doing right now is worthwhile.
This isn't interesting to anyone but me, I realize. Sorry. Did I mention that my throat is really sore?
In my Monday blog-surfing I came across this post in Stephanie Burgis' journal in which she talks about the time management advice she was given in a recent workshop. I tend to not do things until far too close to the deadline, then freak out and work like a maniac to get everything done in time. And while this method has been successful in that I've always gotten everything done (and generally done well) it hasn't been particularly good for my stress levels, health or mood.
So instead of feeling so overwhelmed by everything that I have to do and consequentially not doing anything, I am instead going to follow the advice: choose 3 things to work on in a day. If I get those finished and still have the time and sanity to do more, go me. But I doubt that will happen.
Some people talk about particular stories having songs or soundtracks, and for the most part this has confused the hell out of me. Ditto "writing music." Writing? Music? The two seem mutually exclusive. How anyone could write fiction with music playing is almost beyond me.
And yet over the last little while I've started to understand. "I Breathe" came from Holly McNarland's song "Water," even though the story has grown so very, very far from that. And I have a story that has connected itself to a song that's on the radio right now, so now that whenever I hear that song and think about the story I find myself fighting tears (sometimes unsuccessfully). But I will not speak anymore about the uncreated.
See, the weird thing is that I've found that static helps me write "Ohntai." I discovered this completely by accident, having left my earphones on out of laziness while writing. Now, if there's music playing the apartment or the girls upstairs are vacuuming or I just can't get into the right headspace, I put on the earphones and crank up the volume enough that I can hear that hiss of nothingness playing through the speakers.
This says strange things about me, I think, and about the story (which is taking over my brain).
The Universe works in strange and interesting ways. I have always believed this, but to watch things unfolding and happening and interconnecting--sometimes all I can do is watch in wonder. And hope. And speak cryptically.
Snow has returned to Marissa and Minnesota, and the warmth has stayed here with me. This morning it was pouring with rain, absolutely pouring for hours, and it washed away the rest of the snow. I drove in for my weekly talk with Carole, and by the time I arrived at York the sky was a startling blue, everything damp and steaming, darkened by rain and bright in the sunlight. It was only on my way home that I realized that no matter where I looked, no matter how hard I squinted and peered into the distance, I could see no snow anywhere. Not anywhere! And this discovery was so fantastic that it actually made me laugh out loud in my car. So I turned up "Half Fast Jam" on the stereo and yelled "Go!" at the appropriate moment (my favourite moment in the song) and giggled all the way home.
It smells like spring and I'm grinning because there's so much potential.
The moment where I found myself sawing away at a pound of frozen lean ground beef with a bread knife was the kitchen-related moment of the evening. It was seconded only by the moment a few hours later, after deciding that I wanted to make sugar cookies and preparing the dough, when I re-read the recipe and discovered that it made 5 dozen cookies.
No need for that other half a pound of ground beef. I'm eating only sugar cookies for the rest of the week.
Became tired of having no stories under consideration anywhere (I mean, that's just wrong), so I kicked "A Bird in a Box" out the door again to try its fate at another market. Also finished The Golden Notebook and wrote part of an assignment that's due in about two weeks (need to do it now or risk becoming buried at the end of the month) and wrote a bit more of "Ohntai." Feeling almost productive.
M'ris mentioned in a recent entry (and I don't know which entry, but if I go back and find it I'll hyperlink that bit and remove this rambling and rather unnecessary parenthetical aside) that she thinks of stories in terms of characters relating to each other--never just one character, but a character with relationships. Which made me think: I very often think of characters as inherent to their situations (never or rarely a personality without a problem or plot) but as solitary individuals. Which made me ponder a little more, and reaffirm that a whole lot of what I've been writing over the last while is characters failing to interact, struggles with miscommunication or a total lack of communication--characters in isolation.
Which is not to say that I don’t write characters who just start talking and interacting and ... well, sparking. Instant chemistry. The first time that happened was in "Demonhead" (lo, these many years ago) and it startled the hell out of me. The story wasn't supposed to focus on this weird back-and-forth dynamic between Victoria and Dr. Angela Rye, and yet once they opened their mouths, there it was. And it's happened quite a few times since then (we pause now as the author reminisces). But rarely of late have the stories that I've written needed or encouraged that kind of interaction. This is not necessarily good nor bad, merely something I'm aware of.
Yet it goes a long way to explain why I hate writing dialogue so much, and why it remains my biggest problem.
And what does it say about me that I'm drawn to tell the stories of people who are lost and frightened and alone?
I've been glaring at "Ohntai" in the hopes that evil stares will make it hurry up and become a story. Almost all the scenes that I have written and like and will keep are the scenes where Jackson is the only aware being. And so much of what he is at that moment is a man in isolation, totally and purposefully disconnected from everything around him. I love writing these bits, explaining his troubles and mindset without saying what he's feeling, burying it inside phrasing and description and the words themselves. The scenes--the very necessary scenes--where he is in a situation where he is forced to interact with others ... well, damn, those are hard. It's a like having to introduce myself to someone I've never met before but whose name I know, effort accompanying each word, with fear hidden beneath.
I am feeling introspective and not particularly coherent at the moment. I start the day with road cones and end it with this. Sometimes I wonder about myself, I really do.
Eating my cereal as I get ready to leave, I found (via Tippi's blog) an online, you vs. the computer 20 Questions game. I chose my favourite 20 Questions object: a road cone. (Despite the fact that every time I have chosen a road cone the person has figured it out. Maybe that's due to the fact that 20 Questions is a car game, and road work is a universal condition.) The computer figured it out. Damn it. I thought that I could stump someone with a road cone... Logic or no, it still sort of unnerves me.
My family has "discovered" that I have a blog. It wasn't exactly a secret before, though part of me wonders if this recent excitement is due to the fact that most of my relatives have no idea what a blog is and so never understood what I was talking about in the first place. (And I believed all that smiling and nodding.) But you phrase it as "website" and suddenly I'm news.
I do find it odd, though, to be kept up to date on who has read what post. It's a little unnerving, I have to admit, this enthusiastic scrutiny. And it's especially odd since if anyone phoned me and asked what was going on, I could give them the story with many of the details that I leave out here, for one reason or another. Ah, well.
This weekend ended up being something of an escape from routine, work and stress. Carly and I went out, and though my search for a cheap leather jacket was unsuccessful I did find an interesting coat for $10, which I bough and still need to wash. It amuses me, this large, flowing, slightly shapeless coat. Adventures continued in the evening and into the morning, watching Chisai Jackson play at Gorilla Monsoon, among other things. I was happy and not thinking about very much at all. A lovely change.
Missed most of the Oscars yesterday, due to taxes, driving, other TV shows and disinterest. Some years I will cheerfully watch the whole show from the mindless "who are you wearing?" beginning to the drawn out "wow, they're running long" end. This year I just couldn't muster much enthusiasm, despite all the LOTR fanaticism. In fact, LOTR and Finding Nemo are about the only nominated films I've seen, so it's hard to get excited about films that I know nothing about. Also, I really dislike Billy Crystal. I've never found that man funny, and the more I am exposed to his humour over the course of an evening, the less tolerant I become. Billy Crystal is right up there with Nathan Lane in my list of irritating, unfunny people.
So instead of waiting up anxiously to see the Best Feature Film award, I sat down in my quiet, dark room and wrote a bit more of "Ohntai." Progress is slow, glacially slow, but progress is progress. I think I added another 500 words or so. Maybe, just maybe, I can get this one finished in the next (last) 5 weeks of class. We shall see.