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Archive for August, 2010

I seldom talk about the details of my fiction writing here because a) I don’t want to bore people to death and b) I’m afraid you’ll all think I’ve gone round the twist.   But today that’s what’s on my head, so that’s what’s getting written about.   Written about instead of written.  Poor Baughmans.

Veronica “Ro” Baughman has been given a job.   Mind you, her story isn’t about her job–the career is a bit of background flavour.  The story is about Ro Baughman learning to fall in love…with herself.

I’d toyed around with making her a chef or a baker or a designer or one of those other flashy/cuddly romance novel careers. (Florist, chocolatier, craft shop owner…you know the drill.)  But I’m emphasising both her difference from other women and her constant sublimation of her sexuality.

Voila.   Ro Baughman is now a locksmith.

Here’s the tricky part–I’ve done research out the wazinga about how one gets to be a locksmith, how much one makes as a locksmith and the tools one must own in the locksmithing profession.  But I have no idea what it is like to be a locksmith; especially a female locksmith.   So I found a couple of female locksmiths and sent them each an email.

You have to wonder what they think when they get a note from some strange woman in Tennessee asking if she can ask them a few questions in research for her novel.

This is the part of novel writing that is my downfall.  I love the research so much that it often overtakes the actual book.  (Just ask my novel/doorstop about the history of medicine in Wales.) I’m trying not to do that with these lighter commercial books, but I still can’t put my name on something that lacks any degree of versimilitude.

Granted, this assumes that a) it will be finished and b) it will be published.   But start as you mean to go on, as they say, so we’ll just assume the best case scenario here, alrighty?

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Just so you know, I took my drugs at 1:30am Tuesday and have spent the last 2 days largely sleeping or reading.   That much reading time got me to the end of the 3rd book in Song Of Ice And Fire.

I’m stopping there.

Yes, I know there’s a fourth book.  I even own it in handy Kindle form.   But word has gotten back to me that my precious Tyrion is not in Book 4, and that in fact Book 4 is actually only Book 4A.  Half the characters and storylines seem to lay in wait for book 5–er, Book 4B.

Right now I lack the patience for such nonsense.   Yes, I am terribly interested in the fate of Westeros and those who plot to rule her.  But I crave information.  Just knowing that half the people I want to spend time with aren’t at this party…well, it kills the mood.

In an ideal world, I’ll wait until the next book (half of this book–can you tell how annoyed I am?!?) is published and read them together.   Then again, I’m the same girl who finished all her Halloween candy by 2 November every year, despite plans to hang onto it until Thanksgiving.

I’ve gotten very angry with myself as I troll the internets in search of bits of news about Martin and his writing.  I remember doing the same thing for the first seven years of this century, pawing at the ground and grumbling for details on the next Harry Potter novel.  I promised myself I would never again start a series that had not yet been completed.   We see how well that promise lasted, don’t we?

Nevertheless, I’m betting that Book 4B will be published right around the time the miniseries starts on HBO.   It can’t be too far off, frankly.   I’ve seen too many paperback standers in bookstores hawking the series.   They’re girding up for a big push, and would be crazy to squander that without releasing 4B.  Not with publishing houses in such great turmoil and booksales looking more and more like buggywhip retail.

So I’m hedging my bets that I won’t have to put off reading 4A much longer than November.  We’ll see how that plan goes.

*I’m sorry.  But I can’t call a book a whole book when all of the story lines remain unaddressed.  Yes, it may be bound and sold as a single volume, but it isn’t the whole book.   I’m already begrudging about getting sucked into another series.  I’ll be blaggered before I call the Dance with Dragons anything other than “Book 4B”.

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Terry Brooks turned me off fantasy when I was in my early teen years.   Then Marion Zimmer Bradley’s dreadful book about the women of the Arthurian legends sealed the coffin of my interest in fantasy.

Now, though, thanks to A Song Of Ice And Fire, I’m now looking to read more of it.   And everyone with whom I speak who has read SOIAF has love for Robert Jordan as well.

So tell me, those of you who know, is Robert Jordan worth trying?  Or is he simply trying?

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Yesterday I mentioned the various fictional men with whom I’ve fallen a bit in love. It was by no means a comprehensive list, but it was a good start. A friend of mine wants to know what books all those wonderful, sexy, funny, smart, decent men are from. Good Question! Great Blog Topic for a med day!

  • Sherlock Holmes:   Yes, I am one of those nutbar women who cherish a passion for The Consulting Detective (unless he’s played by Robert Downey Jr. who, face it, just played Robert Downey Jr.).    He can be found in many books, plays and movies.   But the best place to start is the very beginning.  A Study In Scarlet
  • Atticus Finch:  When I first stumbled across the widowed lawyer with two wild-running children I couldn’t decide if I wanted to marry him or be the female version of him.   I wanted at least to name a pet after him.   Now that I’m here in the South I know at least four people who’ve named children after him.   I sincerely hope those little boys grow into the kind of man for whom they’re named.   They can find out all about him in To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • Charles Butler:  He’s ugly.  He’s awkward.  He’s shy.  He’s also desperately in unrequited love with an aloof and sociopathic woman.   Brilliant and kindhearted, Charles makes me want to step into any and all of the Mallory mysteries and wrap him in a comforting hug.  The Mallory mysteries are a full series and can get quite dark.  But I recommend all folks read them.  But they MUST BE READ IN ORDER.  The story of Mallory has a beginning and an end which arcs through the series.  The first book is Mallory’s Oracle.
  • Prior Phillip:  Yes, I know he’s a TV star now.  But I promise you he is a much richer and rewarding character on the page.  As are all characters except perhaps those poor unfortunate ones stuck in the miasma of those terrible Twilight novels.  Prior Phillip is mostly the Christian I want to be, although he could stand to be a bit forgiving and has a blind spot where women are concerned.   He is found, of course, in Pillars Of The Earth.
  • Nero Wolfe:  Why do I like this rotund 56 year old man?  Because he believes in order and calm.   His brownstone is an island of sanity in a mad, changing world.   He weighs quite a bit more than I do, but other than that he is me in so many ways.  As Archie Goodwin (his Watson) said of him: “Which he loves most, food or words, is a tossup.”  That’s me.  And how could I not love a wealthy male fictional version of myself?   There are thirty-some books and almost 40 novellas where Nero and Archie do their thing.  Perhaps my favourite is Murder By The Book.
  • Sidney Carton:  If I were to tell you why I love him I would give away the best parts of one of the best of Charles Dickens’ novels.    If you would like to know just what is so wonderful about the man, I recommend reading A Tale Of Two Cities.

No, there are no men in the Harry Potter novels I’ve had a burning passion for.  But I have never wanted to mother a character more than poor Luna Lovegood.   She makes me want to run straight to Ottery St. Catchpole with a hand-knit afghan and a box of cookies.

There are many more characters I’ve loved over the years, and as soon as I hit publish I’ll doubtless think of more.  But these are the people I’ve loved the most and longest and they’re the ones I’ll always keep around.

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Yesterday we went for lunch at a place that sells gourmet hot dogs. The food is very good and reasonably priced. That means the restaurant was crowded and we ended up at an outdoor table next to a nice family of two parents and three kids who were in their late teens and early 20s.

Now, I want to stay married more than just about anything else. So I kept my mouth shut while we caught snatches of Nice Family’s conversation. Some of it was about how they liked the grilled bread the restaurant used in place of buns–on that we could agree. But then talk turned to the latest controversy and these Tennesseans began to opine about our current War and The Mosque At Ground Zero. That was when the youngest of them–a wispy blonde girl in a sundress and high heels, sweater in her lap and cheese fry held daintily between thumb and middle finger said

They should be ashamed. I’d be embarrassed. I mean, if Christians went someplace and killed a bunch of Muslims I wouldn’t put a church there.

The part of me that is staying married shoved a bite of Sauerkraut in my mouth. The part of me that is me regardless of connubial bliss has a blog. And that blog is where I’m saying the things that swirled around in my head.

The first of them is that Miss Embarrassed should be embarrassed about her lack of knowledge when it comes to World History. Because then she might be aware of just exactly how many Christian churches have been erected in the places where our Crusaders triumphed over those we called Infidels. One of those churches can be found in a little desert city called Jerusalem.

But the second thing that I so badly wanted not only Miss Embarrassed but her entire family to hear was the burning question that grows hotter in my mind the longer I live in Nashville.
What, exactly, do you think a church is?

The entire family was dressed in the way that families dress for church. They had most likely just come from one of the hundreds we’ve got around here. But if they think that a church building is a social statement or a sort of land-claim marker (as so many people seem to) then I am sorry for the Bridegroom.

Churches are places to worship. They are a place where those who believe can gather to share in our relationship, to have a family reunion of sorts.
Churches are the places where we are supposed to be fed.
When Jesus fed the 5000, he took the Loaves and Fishes and prayed over them. He then divided them between his disciples. The disciples took that blessed food out into the masses where they saw it magically, miraculously become enough to feed everyone there–with enough left over to feed more. That is God’s picture to us of what church should be. We, the disciples, receive the blessed food from The Master when we pray at God’s feet. We are then to go out among the hungry and deliver to them the feast we’ve been given.
All Churches Commemorate A War
It doesn’t matter if you are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, Anabaptist or Church of Christ. Your church commemorates the war between God’s Love for God’s Creation and the forces of death and darkness that strive to separate the two. It is the bloodiest and most vile war ever to exist, and the only war with a certain victor.
Churches are Sanctuaries
The Christian Church has a long history of being the place in time of war where those in fear for their life could come for safety and rest.

Many of us would like our church to be nothing more than Sunday Morning Club. If it’s a bit nicer and has more money we wouldn’t mind if there were a gym for our kids to hang out on other nights. But these are merely cultural affectations of the American Church of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. They are not the Biblical church. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this additional benefit a person receives it’s not what the church is for.

There’s no reason to be embarrassed of where you build your church. There’s only cause to be embarrassed about what you do with it once it’s built.

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Not everyone is happy about my resumption of knitting.

Gob stared malevolently at my work all night Saturday and most of Sunday evening.  When I came back up to the bonus room after doing some laundry, this is what I found.

I’ve spent 2 hours so far untangling it.  So far.

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Yippee

In some ways it’s kind of weird how much of an effect Jason [and Erin, actually] have had on my life in the last month. For people who live several states away, whom we have only seen in person one time, they sure have had a lot to do with what I do during the month of August.

First off we had Jason being one of the people who got me into A Song Of Ice And Fire, which has become my new literary obsession. I promise you that as much as it’s wrong to fall in love with literary characters I’m adding Tyrion Lannister to my Good Thing They’re Fake Or I’d Be A Hopeless Stalker list alongside Sherlock Holmes, Atticus Finch, Charles Butler, Prior Phillip, Nero Wolfe and Sydney Carton.

But the big thing–and the thing for which I have entitled this post “Yippee”–came when I noticed Erin asking Lydia for some advice on Facebook. You see, Erin wanted to learn to knit. It was a simple question about where she should go to find a class. But I felt my pupils dilate, my mouth started to salivate and my fingers got that terrible itch that means only one thing: MUST.HAVE.NEEDLES.AND.YARN.

When I lost knitting as I grew sicker I lost touch with one of the essential ingredients to my personal soul. There are things you do and Things You DO. Much of life is mundane and routine but if you are lucky you find a thing or two that just feels as though you were made to do it. When you are undertaking that task you are more alive. You are like yourself, only bolded and underlined and italicised. I got lucky when I found knitting so young, because it’s one of my self-underlining things. Losing that was one of the gravest blows I experienced.

The treatments have started to take effect this year. The scales finally tilted and at last I’ve found myself having more good days than bad. But I was always scared to go back to knitting. I’d tried a couple of times in the last couple of years but it went badly. So badly that it reminded me of one of those uncomfortable scenes in books and movies where a man tries to have sex but can’t become erect. I was a flaccid knitter wannabe.

But then Erin asked me a few questions about starting to knit and as I answered them I realised that there was no way I could not try again. I looked up websites about knitting with arthritis, compiled the advice and made a trip to Jo-Ann.

And I spent 5 hours knitting this weekend. I feel much joy.

And if you are wondering about those Knitting With Arthritis tips which are working for me, here you go:

  • Soak your hands in warm water for a few minutes before sitting down to knit.
  • Stop every few rows (I stop after 100 stitches) to give your hands a break.
  • After resting your hands and before you pick up the needles again, do a minute or so of “fake typing” where you move your fingers in the air as if you were typing or playing the piano.  It stretches them without the impact of actual keyboarding and keeps them limber while you knit.
  • Use bamboo, wood or plastic needles.   This seems like a bit of a dumb tip, but it’s actually one of the best ones.   The bamboo (my personal choice) needles actually hold the heat from your hands a little bit so they keep the ache away whereas metal needles stay cold and are harder on your joint mobility.   The yarn also slides more easily along the bamboo.
  • Use smaller needles
  • Vary your projects in order to vary the type of stress on your hands.  You’ll have less risk of repetitive motion injury.  If you aren’t a polygamous knitter by nature, take a break to ball some yarn.
  • ALWAYS USE CIRCULAR NEEDLES.  Even when knitting flat.  This distributes the weight of your work around the needle frame instead of forcing your hands and shoulders to bear it, as with flat needles.

I’m so happy about this that I can hardly contain my joy.  In fact, just writing about it makes me want to leave my desk to go knit.

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Ugh. Sorry for putting up two posts in one day. Sorry also to my sadly neglected fiction work for interrupting you to be distracted.

But a blog that I recently started following has this to say:

we need to be praying for God to use this tragedy for His purposes, for His glory. Could this “natural disaster” be yet another call for the people of the world to repent of our sins?

The Old Testament is filled with instances when God brought or allowed crises to bring peoples to their knees.

Oh, Christianity. Why do you do this? Do you not recall Hebrews 9? Because that passage is pretty clear. As I said over at that other blog:

’m sorry, but I just cannot accept that God uses natural disasters this day and age to communicate God’s plan for the world.

Nope.

Sure, that was commonplace in the Old Testament. But that was before the Christic Covenant and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Now that we have a direct line of communication with the Divine, God has no need to use those pre-propritiation methods of communicating God’s will.

Will there ever be a fire or flood or earthquake or eclipse or outbreak or other disaster that doesn’t have some of us rubbing our hands together gleefully delighting in the idea of a Smiting God?!?

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Looking For God

I just came across something where a person talked about how she was looking for God and the various places she thought she could go to find Him. (Her words..not mine.)

Something about it didn’t sit well with me, and I’m still trying to figure out what.

But maybe it’s that when I read a statement like that I see a certain level of arrogance at times. Now not everyone who says they are “looking for God” is doing so in an arrogant way. There are seekers aplenty out there. But earnest seeking is different than what so often seems to pass as “looking for God.”

There’s a certain way in which people have bad days or off days or are for some reason living in what I would call the Silence of God. The Silence of God is somewhat like when your father/mother/trusted guardian was teaching you to ride a bike. They’d hold on a ways and then let go. You wouldn’t feel them holding you anymore. But they were always right there watching–letting you find your own balance, using the tools they’d given you. That’s a Silence of God. I’ve lived through several of them and they’re hard, but they’re ultimately very good for you. Because you learn to balance on your own. Once you realise that God is always there and All will be well and All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well you know that you’ll come out safely at the end of the driveway with a big, reassuring hug and the knowledge that you peddled your own way through it.

But there are these times where people take themselves away from God. They willingly say “I’m done here”, either verbally or in some type of rebellious attitude by embracing the things they know God has forbidden. They’re like angry teenagers storming out of the living room because they can’t have the keys to the car to go to a party where there’s underage drinking.

And then they start to moan about how they can’t find God. Now, if you aren’t a Christian I’m assuming you’ve got a dozen different thoughts on this and I know our theologies differ. But in Christianity we believe that God made everything and is over everything. So to say you can’t find a God who is literally everywhere–including pounding at the door to your heart, begging to be invited into your life–is almost a sign of stubbornness.

Because more often than not what you really want is for God to give you the keys to the car. To let you drink underage and not mind. You want to feel completely okay with whatever path you’ve chosen. And you want your conversation with God to be wholly on your terms.

“I’ll look for God in the Meadows”

Yes, God is there. But God is also in the desert. In the barren high places of mountaintops where nothing grows but snow. In the trenches of the ocean with the monsters of the deep. God is in the easy places. But God is also in the hard places. To only seek God in the places you deem comforting and lovely is to be demanding that God only comfort you and offer you loveliness. It’s being in puppy love with God. It’s recasting God in the roll of Chachi.

God can and will give you solace, loveliness and comfort. But God can also give you so much more. It pays to look for God in the rock. In the hard place. Because then you and God go to so many new and unexpected places. And you learn to ride free with the wind at your back and the world speeding by too fast to touch you.

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I’ve been reading furiously and writing furiously. The great thing about deciding to delve into the long-untapped waters of Sci-Fi and Fantasy is that now I can read WHILE I’m writing my own stuff without being too worried about crosspollination. So I don’t feel so lame.

Anyway, one of the things I’ve read a lot lately in literary criticism is people talking about “Show me VS. Tell Me” and how one is good but the other is extremely horribly awfully bad and is the first thing that will brand you a philistine when it comes to reading your work critically.

The thing is…I don’t know exactly what they mean by show vs. tell. Yes, I’m ignorant. I’ve taken very few creative writing classes in my life. And very few seminars. This seems like something they would talk about in a class or a seminar.

So I am coming to you folks to tell me what is Show Me vs. Tell Me in YOUR mind.

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