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Archive for March, 2011

When I first started reading blogs I was voraciously devouring anything political.   By the time I was at the height of my reading-only phase I was up to about 45 blogs a day, all politics.   Then of course I started writing this blog of my own and it too was plenty political.

I made the choice a few years ago to just stop paying attention to politics.   No political blogs.  No news watching.  No involvement in the Theatre Of The Absurd that politics has become.   I sleep better, eat better and have much lower blood pressure.   I also realised that it is entirely possible–if you are a selective reader–to still pay attention to Government without the slightest focus on Politics.  You can watch the progress of legislation that you’ve evaluated and communicate with your representatives about that legislation.   You can educate yourself about the platforms of candidates before an election and the general performance of elected officials when deciding if they merit your continued vote.   All without losing yourself in arguments about the ephemeral entertainment along the fringes, the stuff the news outlets deem newsworthy solely because it is emotionally compelling.

But I miss having something to blog about every day that gets comments and causes people to have a visceral reaction.   Now that I write that sentence I realise that I like when my writing provokes.   It’s good for ME and MY EGO.  But is it good for everyone?  Am I pleasing my ego at the expense of other people’s blood pressure, and is that fair?

I’m asking myself these questions now as I labour on what I honestly believe is the best thing I’ve ever written.  This book is a reworking of themes that have appeared in earlier versions in other books of mine that are unfinished.  It’s as though they were all practice sculptures with one of them being work on noses, the other on chins and another on ears.   Now this book is the whole bust as it were.   And I know that it is DEFINITELY not a Christian book.   At no point will these characters turn to the reader and give the standard Jesus Saves piece.   But I am a Christian and God is central to my existence, central to my thought.   So God moves through the story like the wind moving through the trees.   You see God because you see how characters react and behave.   I’m a Christian writer who is writing what I hope to be a good book that examines how humans relate to those elements of God that are necessary to them–creativity, healing, true hope–regardless of how they relate to God at all.   But you’d only know it if you read my blog.  If you read the book you just read a story about mermaids and medicine and romance.

I just read something where another Christian was pretty much saying that Christians should only write Christian fiction because they should ABC–Always Be Converting (my shorthand, not hers.)  But then it seems that those types of books are sort of like political blogging.  Are they really for God, to show God’s best side to the world or are they for the writer?  Are they really just a chance for the writer to massage his or her ego and to say privately “I am The Hand Of God!!!”  ?

 

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I have always been a hoarder. It’s the intersection of my basic insecurity and my fear that things will someday be much, much worse than they are right now. In thirty years I’ll be the strange aunt who keeps her money in a coffee can behind the piano. But until then I’m sort of a magpie for various things. Ask my husband sometime about the gajillion bottles of soda in the fridge (waiting for the Great Soda Shortage to come), the piles of uneaten sweets he calls Candy Mountain or the hundreds of dollars worth of yarn stuck in every nook and cranny of our house.

Right now, though, my big issue is with my Kindle. No surprise, since the thing is practically grafted to my thumb. My world has been slowly usurped by the Kindle Culture over the past two years and it’s just getting worse now that every person with $150 and no shopping sense decided to get one for their family members this Christmas*

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*I know this is another topic and it’s tacky to do a post-within-a-post. But I swear this rash of Kindles in the hands of the non-reader brings home to me the fact that there are a whole lot of people who would rather give the It gift because it’s the It gift as opposed to giving it because the recepient actually wants or needs the thing. I have lost track of the vast number of people on various fora who are “not much into reading but got this stupid Kindle thing for Christmas and just need some cheap thing to read on there.” It makes my eyes melt into the back of my head, run down into the pit of my stomach and churn up into a hot puddle of sick.
—-

So now that Kindles are so popular there’s this new folklore about writers becoming rich by selling their self-published stuff for 99 cents. (Like hack writing has just been invented…) The way to sell your hack novel for a buck is to first offer it free for a few days and then once enough people have made it top the “bestseller” list on the free side, start charging that buck and the lazy will see it atop the Paid Bestseller list and buy it for the sake of saying they’ve got content for their eReader. And here’s where I come in.

I have now downloaded nearly every single piece of free junk out there. If it is for my Kindle and it’s free the hoarder in me 1-Clicks away. Because there may be a day between now and my inevitable end that will not be complete unless I can read about the girl who decides to leave the Amish after becoming a vampire serial killer who writes dime novels for the burgeoning werewolf market. Or one of the two thousand takes on Pride and Prejudice. Just last month I downloaded:

  • P&P retold on a boat.  (Darcy’s Voyage)
  • P&P with sex scenes added (P&P the Pillow Edition)
  • P&P told from Lydia’s POV (Lydia’s Story)

They were all free.   I don’t even like the ORIGINAL Pride and Prejudice.   That’s how much of a sickness this is.   The only free books I’ve been able to resist thus far are the straight-up Pornrotica.  I have no interest in the Naughty Nooners series, but appreciate the publisher’s generousity nonetheless.

Today I realised that I was downloading The Beer Devotional.  It’s free.  I don’t like beer.  I don’t drink beer.  My only uses for beer are making chili and killing slugs in the garden.   But still.  It was a free book.

I really need an intervention.

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Three minutes–three MINUTES–after realising I needed to double check something I put in my book I found the answer.

Where else in time could a writer have wondered what kind of trees were in Wales 900 years ago and then almost immediately come upon the Ancient Tree Forum of the UK Woodland Trust?!?

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I’m having a lot of fun writing my book. It’s a good thing, too, because I am on an unusually long streak of reading Brad Pitt books.

Those are the books that everyone else seems to go on about how wonderful they are, how much they love them, how they’re the best book ever. And then you pick it up and it’s just one long hard slog. You keep reading because you know that either somewhere in there is some truth you’ll discover if you just keep turning the page or else you are one sick puppy who is obviously broken.

It’s the same way I feel about Brad Pitt’s alleged sexiness. I know it must be there on some level because a billion people can’t be wrong. Can they? But like Bernard Cornwell and Jane Austen I just can’t find the hotness, no matter how hard I try.

In an effort to read SOMETHING that engaged me, I was on the Amazon forums yesterday when I came across that usual statistic about how basically it’s easier to get struck by a lightning bolt which has bounced off the left breast of a one-eyed Lithuanian woman named Ethel than it is to get published. It made me want to slit my wrists, and then I realised that I now know a lot of published authors. And no offense to any of them but I have to say that the ones I know personally, quasi personally and through emails and blogs are NOT HAVING ANY FUN WRITING. At all. Some of them seem to be having fun getting on Facebook and telling people they are Published Authors. Others seem to be having fun passing out giveaway copies of their book on Goodreads and a few enjoy blogging about writing. But each and every one of them, bar none, seems like a person who signed a Faustian bargain they’d much rather be shot of.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to sign a contract that says someone will print my book and then I’d love to walk into a bookstore, saunter over to the Cs in the Fiction stacks and start surreptitiously facing out all my copies. That’d be a gas. But I’m not so sure how I’d feel about the knowledge of a looming deadline for a second and third book, turning my outlet and solace into the world’s most verbose dental appointment.

Oh well. Guess I’ll worry about finishing this one, this book I am currently in love with, first. It hit me recently, a perfect pearl of a story that fused together several partial ones that are sitting on my hard drive in a new and interesting direction. If you are a writer at all I insist that you never ever take reading for granted. Because nothing will help you more than reading what is already out there. You’ll take away after awhile an instinctive knowledge of what works and what publishers want. And that can only help you in the long run.

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Yes, I got a bit off track with my Pogues posting exercise. Which seems fitting, seeing as the Pogues are not well known for their attention to detail and sticktoitiveness. I would’ve made a wonderful drunken Irish rock star, if only I weren’t tone deaf and unable to stand the fetid burning tang of alcohol.

I had always intended for this post to be about mine own wildness, that I were the Wild Kat, which is inevitably how I think of it whenever icrank this song. Like it’s an anthem for my harder edges

But I’m just too blistered over to go into it.

I’ve been following Katie Granju’s story about her son’s last days and untimely death very closely. I should know better, of course, seeing as how I make it a habit to avoid the news, YouTube, talk radio and anything else that invites you to develop an opinion after tanking up on emotional stimuli. (TruFact: I just made a typo there, thank you iPad, that said stupimili. I want “stupimili” to be a word indicating any calculated appeal to emotion over reason.)

Anyway, I’ve been reading not only Katie’s story, doled out in bits like a soap opera, but the countless comments from people around the world. It makes me want to reach through my computer and slap the world. Half the commentors are calling for the villains–a man named Russell and a woman named Yolanda–to be “skinned alive”, “buried under the jail”, “shot in the head” and frightened into suicide. Based on nothing more than Katie’s version of the story. And while I support the death penalty I see more and more why other people don’t. Because they assume that the death penalty is a state-sanctioned sort of revenge, a chance to get even with the bad guys. And maybe if this is how people really are, demanding someone else’s blood on the mere sayso of a grieving mother, I ought to rethink my position on the death penalty. I have always considered it the end point on a continuum of punishment for wrongdoing. Like a time-out. And just as timeouts wont unbreak a vase or uncut your sister’s hair, the death penalty wont bring back a lost child.

And it’s really that what gets me. First I better be clear. So far I don’t think Katie is doing what I’m about to complain about. I think, because she has said so, that she’s just trying to make sure her son’s deaths investigated properly. Which is a perfectly reasonable thing for any mother to do when her child dies under mysterious circumstances. But the thing that is driving me wild (staying on theme) is the number of people who are turning Henry Granju into a bloody shirt(google it) for the drug war.

I keep reading that since Henry’s gateway drug was pot, that proves pot should stay illegal. If I ( a non-pot user) can point to five cases of pot smokers who are actively leading lives as productive as any casual drinker, does that change anything?

I also keep reading that since Henry was addicted to and ultimately succumbed to an overdose of Rx pain meds that there should be “tighter restrictions” on legal pain meds. Of course that sets my hackles arising like nothing else can. I know addicts (and hope some will comment here) and I know pain patients. Every addict I know says pain meds are easy to get. I have no idea where they go to get them or how much of their family’s hard earned money they spend on them. But every person I know in legitimate pain from disease is constantly struggling to have their pain managed. Doctors are afraid to prescribe them. Pharmacists are wary about filling them. Our names are checked and cross-checked on databases. There are a litany of procedures we go through to have them approved, filled and stored safely. Yet kids like Henry and women like my addict friends still can get them easily. It isn’t fair. And that makes me angry. Wild, even.

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I expect this post’ll get me in trouble. I’m writing from a place of intense physical pain accompanied by exhaustion and nausea. Not that it’s an excuse to be such a wanker. But there it is.

I just need to get some stuff off my chest that is not politically correct or necessarily nice. And I’m sorry.

* just because a person doesn’t currently have a child, don’t assume that they have never had (or lost) a child.

* everybody knows grief and hardship. Being a parent doesnt give you a special ticket to the grief and hardship olympics. So quit telling people who don’t have kids that they don’t understand because they aren’t a parent. You don’t understand just how much the childless and child free DO understand.

* if you have more than two kids you might want to examine your personal choices before blaming the president, congress, CEOs, banks, the stock market, global warming and the Iraq war for why you cant afford anything.

* being a mother doesn’t make you special. Motherhood is by its very nature one of the most ordinary things that can happen to a woman.

* if the restaurant has a wine list in any form other than a laminated card stuck between the salt shaker and the ketchup bottle…it is not child friendly.

* if you’ve decided to have kids, part of the territory is putting your good times on hold for a decade and a half while you get them raised right. Yes, it sucks. But you get all these magical holidays and sweet interludes you’re always bragging about. Those things have a price. It’s called “your freedom”

* no child should have a cell phone if they don’t also have a job. Or, at the very least, household chores. Yeah, I know you say the cell phone makes your job as a parent easier. A) see the above item and B) right now is when you are supposed to be teaching them about work and reward. So do it.

* video games are not the same thing as play.

* Kinect and Wii are not the same thing as exercise.

* a good education costs money. It also costs your time and involvement. Society didn’t have those babies. You did.

* you are the parent. Not me. Not their teachers, your neighbors, the waitstaff, the person behind youbin the line at Krogers, your senator, your congressman, the health department or the FDA. Quit expecting those people to do your job for you.

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All my friends are writing books.

This is probably because all my friends are writers.

That being said, I am growing more nervous. I imagine this is what the flat-chested girl must feel like at strip poker night. (not that I’ve ever been flat chested. Or played strip poker, mom.) we are at the stage where more of these friends have drafts to read. And are asking others to read those drafts.

I’ve got some good drafts of some good sections of some good books. I think. But the more I look at them the more I’m convinced they’re the writerly version of bra stuffing. I know that if I were to ask anyone to read them the reaction would be something
along the lines of “you’re kidding?! All these years youve told us you’re a writer. And this is what you’ve got? Ive read more riveting shampoo instructions!!!

A few years ago I posted a paragraph–one paragraph–of
something I wrote as an example of contextual dialogue. The kindest reactions I got were people who didn’t say anything at all. One person I’d never ever seen comment here before reamed me for all sorts of things you ream people for in a writing workshop. You know…the criticism people drag out to enforce their image of superiority.

I really and truly deeply want to read my friends’ drafts. And part of me wants to have people read at least a piece of my fiction. But the larger part of me thinks maybe I’m not a writer at all and its best if I keep my private insanity ,well, private.

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Blogger Katie Granju lost her son for good last May. She started losing him years before that as he became more involved in the quest for self-medication.

Since the beginning of March, Granju has posted a series of blog entries detailing the circumstances surrounding Henry’s last days and the investigation into the circumstances which culminated in her 18 year old son’s death.

It is perhaps too late for Henry to benefit from any sort of Justice that the authorities on this earth can mete out. But if the circumstances Granju alleges in her last entry are even remotely correct it is not at all too late for justice to come to those who may have been involved in, or indeed orchestrating, the sad exchange of sexual favours for drugs in and around the city of Knoxville.

For years the stories coming from Knoxville have painted a picture of a group of law enforcement officers who are, at best, apathetic. At their worst the stories make those officers sound cruelly dismissive.

Yet part of me wonders what it must be like to be one of those officers. We are horror-struck as we read Katie Granju’s account of her son’s descent into a hell of drug addiction, drug dealing, prostitution and assault. That’s one story of one son. What must it be like for the officers who see hundreds of sons and daughters each month, living out the same story Henry Granju did? Sons and daughters who don’t have writer mothers. Sons and daughters who long ago lost anyone to care about them. If it were my job to navigate that hopeless sea I can imagine that I, too, might seem apathetic or disinterested–if only to protect myself from falling apart at the wretchedness of it all.

However, no matter how hard it is too look at the fact remains that there must be an accounting. Not for Henry. Not for Katie. For Knoxville. For Tennessee. We are a state with a government because we’ve said that we stand for being part of a society and that as a society we protect the least among us. For too long we’ve disguised that protection in a futile, wasteful war on drugs. The drugs, like guns, are just the tools which in the hands of wicked men and women destroy souls. It’s time we have a war on the wicked among us. And it seems to me that Katie Granju’s digging has provided a lead on where some of those wicked can be found.

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There’s a glass of punch below your feet and an angel at your head.

I’ve had two songs dancing around my head together for the last day. Because of that I realize that they are companionable and could be turned into medley. But I’m quite sure the world isn’t ready for a blend of this rough and rowdy drinking song and Lady Gaga’s Poker Face. Which is a techno pop dancing song. And we all know that drinking and dancing never go together.

Even if I weren’t doing this little project of mine I most probably would have called this post as I have done here because the Sickbed has been dominating my life to the point of breakdown. Not mine–my brother’s. My YOUNGER (read: 34) brother was in the hospital for a week with a heart problem that was caused by a mystery and can be fixed by a mystery. He finally got to leave late last evening,
sent home with a James Bond-style vest that monitors his heart and transmits all the details back to his cardiologist. As he told men”You’d just demand they put a pacemaker in you and be done with it. You’d scream about your every move being tracked.” Ahhh. He knows me so well. Because I indeed would. I find such
things very creepy. It’s a wonder I’m a Christian after all those childhood lessons about God and Jesus being omnipresent. Really, though, I’ve decided to make an exception for God, Jesus and my dogs. No one else can follow me everywhere. As it is I seem to already be leading quite a parade.

I melted down last night around six o’clock. (Oh, yeah. We’re back to the whole “sickbed” thing.) Days of little or no sleep and the stress of worry and not knowing all combined with the fact that I am the main topic of conversation at events I don’t attend (i.e. my family’s Sunday dinners) and caused me to sit in a puddle of tears at my computer. Well, no. They caused the puddle of tears. The arthritis that froze my knees caused me to be at my computer because I couldn’t walk up the stairs. It was a bad moment.

Since I’ve been listening heavily to the Pogues and I knew I was doing this song project I did actually think of this song (and Shane MacGowan in general) while I sat here melting into saltwater and I wondered how anyone could willingly incapacitate themselves. I don’t get it. Of course I’m of Welsh descent which means I belong to that strain of Celts that hides in the mountains and pores over herb lore. As opposed to MacGowan’s strain that seems to be one of whiskey and tooth loss.

So is it any wonder that I’m slowly losing my mind, thinking of whiskey and heart problems and Shane McGowan and Lady Gaga and Welsh folk medicine?

The ghost is rattling at the door and the devil is in the chair.

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Winston Churchill said a lot of things. However, if he said everything he’s accused of sayuing he would’ve started talking in 1736 and would still be talking now. I think that the twentieth century was full of people saying ribald or semi witty things and passing it off on Churchill–a sort of Blame the Dog scenario.

One of the things he allegedly said that is now in dispute is the quote about the (paraphrasing due to iPad) history of the British Navy being 300 years of rum, sodomy and the lash. Historians now dispute that he said this, which makes me actually a bit sad. I kindof like the idea of the First Lord of the Admiralty (head of the
British Navy) slagging off on his charge a bit. But knowing him as I do, that’s precisely why I personally doubt that he said this. Churchill loved the navy.
Regardless of who started this phrase going round I am amused by the idea of a bunch of sailors getting drunk, getting all interconnected via various orifices* and then getting whipped for it. It seems like something aliens would watch on whatever their version of Animal Planet is.

Of course the general chaos that one would assume any such navy to be operating under would seem to preclude that navy from becoming one of the greatest seafaring powers in recorded history. They had to take a few rum breaks to get that It’s Always Sunny In The British Empire thing.

One of the closer nations conquered by Britain and folded into her batter was Ireland. Thus the Irish have very little love, generally speaking, for Mother England. And when an Irish band decided to name their ground-breaking album it seemed only fitting to take that legendary Churchill quote–the one that reduced Her Majesty’s Royal Navy to a bunch of randy bleeding drunks–and use it as the album’s title.

To make matters worse, said album is widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the history of rock. I know I listen to it almost daily from 1 February to about mid November.

This year I decided to do something special…for two reasons. One, I wanted to discipline myself to a unique writing exercise that stretches my creativity and two, I wanted to mark ST. Patrick’s day in some way other than wearing orange**. So Ive decided to write a daily post each day between now and 17 March using the each song title from Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash as a post title and jumping off point. No, I’m not writing about the songs themselves. I’m writing like I usually do, but using the song titles to jump start my brain. It’ll either be fun or a colossal mess. Sort of like ST. Patrick’s day.


*I hate auto-correct. It changed the word “Orifices” to Poultices three times. Three. Whole different scenario, poultices instead of orifices.

**My family is weird.

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