Archive for April, 2011

My older dog, Quinn, is white and fluffy and a huge showoff. For years–ten, at least–he’s played a game where he wrestles with is face under a blanket for a minute or two and then pulls the blanket off and smiles. At that point, his well-trained people clap and say “yay!”. So he smiles bigger and then does it again. After a decade of smooth rehearsal, a session of The Blanket Game can last a good (?) ten minutes. Any unannounced visitor to our home will doubtless find at least one blanket carelessly strewn on the floor. As nearly as we can tell, Quinn thinks we enjoy The Blanket Game, so he trots it out to thank us for table scraps or to cheer us up when we feel down. More than one marital argument has been diverted by a timely session of The Blanket Game. We are well-trained indeed. But it does lose its charms after the first ninety seconds or so, and the part of the ritual where we respond with claps and praise can become dull pretty fast.

This morning my husband slunk off to work under a pall of allergies and I was on the upstairs couch trying–mostly in vain–to get comfortable. Stomach trouble has me on a temporary suspension of arthritis meds, so I’m hurting more and sleeping less for the time being. Quinn could tell that it was indeed past time for a round of Blanket Game. I was happy to see it for thirty seconds and then too sore to clap. But then…

Gobie is the new baby, he’s only lived here eleven months. But in that time one of the nicknames he’s earned is “Interrupting Cowmoo” because of his insistance that any hug, kiss, cuddle or other attention include him. He’s small and deft enough to wedge his way between two full-grown adults, and more than able to position himself between an iPhone camera and a mugging older brother. This morning he was REALLY put out by the attention Quinn was getting. That early in the day (6:30am) is when he sits in my lap for a cuddle. Which makes it very little different from late in the day, early in the evening, late in the evening…you get me, right? Gobie is very much about the attention. But The Blanket Game is sacrosanct. So there I was wearily mumbing “yay, Quinn” and doing the half-hearted arthritis clap where I try to make the skin-to-skin noise without the nails-in-bone pain. As much as he tried, Gobie couldn’t make me stop clapping.

So he jumped down and tried to get under the blanket with Quinn. Didn’t work.

He tried to distract Quinn with a wrestling match. Didn’t work.

It was obvious that Gobie was getting much more frustrated and when I started taking pictures he blew a gasket. And I swear to you that he stuck out his scrawny little black paw and pulled the blanket back over Quinn’s face. It was the funniest thing.

Dogs are more like people than anyone ever wants to admit. They’re like six year olds who can’t speak.

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I am honestly surprised that this has to be a rant. I’m embarrassed for our country and worried about our future. That this has happened frequently enough for me to get to the point of ranting about it is SHAMEFUL!


If there is a question to which you don’t know the answer,


Honestly, unless the question is “do I look fat in this?”* you can find the answer using Google and a bit of your own steam.

Facebook is fun. But if you want to know the stats on an athlete or the exact language they speak in the island featured in your novel, look it up. Society doesnt need to spoonfeed you.

And the fact that i actually intentionally typed the word “speenfood” should tell you how much sleep i nedd right now.

*(btw the answer to that one is alwaysalwaysalways ‘yes’. Otherwise you wouldnt feel compelled to ask.)

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They are making _The Help_ into a movie. The trailer makes it seem like some happy go lucky Fried Green Miss Daisy thing, but if it is anything remotely like the book I read…well. Let’s just say there are gonna be some disappointed folks who get a lot of grimness served up with a slice of stereotype. The book made me uncomfortable and I struggled to finish it. I doubt I’ll want to spend another two hours with that world, even if the trailer is right and the tone has shifted markedly.

I cant pick a world that I DO want to soend two hours in, though, and that’s becoming a problem. I’m almost done rewatcjing the Wire and so Im growing tired of Baltimore. I’m still reading the Washington bio at a snail’s pace; it really does deserve the Pulitzer, but at the same time I’m trying to make it last. It was an expensive book.

I just started waching _Sons of Anarchy_, figuring it could sub in for the Wire. I blame Francis Ford Coppola for my affinity to sprawling Family of Gangsters epics. Sadly, _SOA_ is maybe the Godfather 3 of gangster epics so far. Granted, I’ve only seen the one hour.

A week ago i met a writer named Patrick Todoroff on another blog. He was soliciting reviewers for his first novel and sent me a free copy. It’s sort of a cyberpunk thing and Im loving it so far. Really and truly. But i asked him for a PDF and the words are as tiny as my aspirations of being an Olympic Pole Vaulter. Which bugs, cause Im really into the story but cant read as much as I want withoutngetting a headache.

I get nervous when Im restless in my fiction consumption because it always seems to bode ill. Literally, i guess. This unsettledness seems to precede kidney stones or major flares, as though my body and brain crank up for awhile and then blow a fuse.

The only reason I can think of for recording this nonsense for posterity is that I’m trying to renew my vows to my blog. That means writing something every weekday. I’m done with politics, though, because its no good for me. And after this last month I think I may be taking a break from writing about religion, too. I was so irritated by yesterday morning that i wrote the crankiest rant. It’s gone now, because I decided to reclassify it as private. But the thoughts are the same.

So that means we have this strange entry. But hey. At least I showed up. For me these days that’s something. I feel like I might fade into the woodwork any day now. All this room is missing is some yellow wallpaper.

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My mother is proud of not reading much fiction. She taught literature in High School for decades, along with History and Economics so she’s clearly no slouch mentally. She just reads in a completely different fashion than I. Whereas I will read anything, anywhere any time, slouched or draped in whatever position suits me, she treats most of her reading like a task, sitting at a table with her highlighter and pen. I sometimes think the idea of relaxing while reading is foreign enough to her that it keeps her from enjoying the escapism of novels.

In the last few years, however, she’s begun participating in some reading groups at her church and is being slowly dragged into the mire of leisure reading; as long as she can treat it like a class, the make-believe seems to go down fairly easy. Unfortunately for me, though, one of the books she read on her early forays into the book club world was Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love. When I came out of the closet as a writer she immediately pounced on me with “I bet you’re meant to write books like this!” and excitedly insisted that I read it at once.

It took me six further months of being cajolled before I broke down and got a copy from the library. I nearly broke down again after reading the first three pages. “If Mom thinks I can’t write any better than this, I better find a new calling.” It was a combination of three of my least favourite types of book: Post-civil war western bodice-ripper, angsty abuse bildungsroman and overtly religiously themed. The only thing missing to make me pull my hair out were elves on a quest. Ever the almost-dutiful daughter (I’m often too strongwilled) I slogged through the Yo-Yo relationship between the beautiful hooker and her nearly-psychotic, domineering “husband”, trying not to cut myself on the overly pointed analogies between this maudlin pap and the Biblical account of the prophet Hosea’s God-directed marriage to the former-prostitute Gomer.

That was almost 7 years ago. In those seven years I have lost count of the number of times people–okay, women at church–have gushed effusively over Redeeming Love and how much it means to them. I mostly hold my tongue. Other than being true to myself enough to say that I don’t care for it I just smile politely and ask them what they enjoyed about it. Not in a snarky way at all. I truly do want to know how the book spoke to them. In every case I’ve been told that that it’s the overall story and the idea of the man’s persistence which they find compelling. No one ever raves about the prose. I’ve begun to think that this is a book most enjoyed by people who don’t also write.

My theory seems to be gaining traction as I read the comments on this post. A male author of horror books with Christian themes made the pact to step out of his comfort zone and try a Christian themed* romance. Since it’s almost universally considered the gold-standard of such books, Redeeming Love was the natural choice. And as I suspected he might, Duran liked it no better than I did.

And here’s the part that makes me sit up and write a blog post about the whole farkakte mess. Even there, in a company of writers and voracious readers, any criticism of the book’s style or content is being derided as arrogant.

Yes. I have spent seven years with people telling me this book is quite simple nothing less than the paragon of all literature everywhere. “Best book I’ve ever read.” One woman even equated it with Scripture, telling me she was sure it was God-breathed. Of course not one word of that is arrogant, right? It’s only arrogant to say “hold on a minute. This empress is dressed in what looks like rags to me.”

I think anyone can be reached and touched by any book. As I’ve said many times over there is no way to discern the essence of the alchemy between reader and novel. Time, place, development and health all play a factor in any reader’s relationship to fiction. In that way fiction is much more fluid a writing form than biography or history. It is much more transmutable. If you are touched or moved by a book that’s not unlike falling in love with someone. It often may seem irrational to outsiders, but that doesn’t make the love less real.


It is not wrong for a craftsperson to analyze a product of that craft. To take it apart and see how it is put together. A man who makes a chair can say that the chair of pressboard held together by epoxy is not as well-crafted as the chair carved of oak and joined by nails or carved wooden pins. It isn’t arrogant to say “that is not as well-made a chair.” Even if some people think the pressboard chair looks great in their living rooms.

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This is a spoiler-free recap where I discuss things that happened within the hour of the show but NOT how they fit into the larger story. For the Liveblog, which has some minor spoilers of that nature, go here

From the first moment of the first teaser I saw last fall, it seemed that HBO was prepared to do this right. Or, in the parlance of erstwhile HBO series, “come correct.” And they came correct, indeed. Nearly every minute of last night’s inaugural episode exceeded my expectations fabulously. (more…)

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Winter is coming after the jump

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This is just an entry to explain the part of my health issue thats germane to the people who come here by googling Katherine Coble Disability.

As far as search terms go, I like it much better than the number one thing that brings people here: nude fat girls.

There are a lot of people out there who really want to see nude fat girls. Shame they never heard of Rubens or Botero. (hint: google those guys, since you won’t get that here.)

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You’re at a cocktail party. Or a luncheon seminar for parents. Or even a mothers’ Bible study. You see an unfamiliar face and go over to introduce yourself and make her feel welcome.

You are by all accounts a very nice person, very friendly and open. But there is an awfully good chance you will really screw this up. Because you will see her and make some assumptions. Those assumptions will lead you to break the number-one rule of courtroom attorneys everywhere.

Never ask a specific question you don’t already know the answer to.

But you will, being nice and seeing a stranger at a function for moms, say “How many children do you have?” or “How old are your children?” These are personal questions. Ones that should be as off-limits in first-time conversations as “what is your favourite sexual position?” and “have you ever flirted with naked role play?”

Because a person in a new situation does not want to have to think about the children that died or were never born. Less dramatically but still very real are the times she shouldn’t have to think about answering interfering questions about the status of her blended family, who has custody on what days.

Even when you think you know, you don’t.
So try sticking to vague, open questions like “So, what brought you here today?” or using a non-questioning conversation starter like “tell me about your favourite things to talk about, I’m interested in knowing you better.”

If that feels awkward, go with the upfront approach. “I’ve been a mom for 12 years and meeting people at these things always makes me nervous.” Let them take the next step–you’d be surprised at how much leading with your own openness and vulnerability makes the other person more comfortable.

I know women who have felt their souls crushed because they weren’t led to marry. I know many more who were unable to have children or who lost pregnancies to miscarriage and stillbirth. I also know a few women who’ve been divorced, who have lost custody of their kids due to drug and alcohol problems. And then there are the people who were just laid off from work or had to go out on disability.

All those questions about how long you’ve been married, how many kids you have, how old they are, where you work… You never ever ever know when you are going to trip right across a stranger’s most painful corner of life.

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Just once. Once. Okay, maybe twice. I’d really love for people who write religious fiction to admit that a whole lot of it is poorly written junk.

It’s not because I “never read fiction”.

It’s not because I only read a couple of titles and then gave up before exploring the vast array of authors and styles on offer.

It’s not because I dislike having a faith message appear in a book.

It is because the vast majority of the books are just BAD.

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My Inklings

This isn’t Oxbridge, this slice of mattress in Hermitage, Tennessee. It isn’t even a Tony hotel in New York.

But somehow over the last few years I stumbled onto a huge blessing. Betsy touched on it yesterday when she mentioned her readers. Then Mike Duran brought it up on Facebook and I realized that somehow, out of my ravings (no, Autocorrect, I mean ravings, not Davonte) and other folks’ patience I’ve ended up with something pretty close to Inklings.

People who read this blog or read this blog. <–How can't you love that sentence?!? People who have stumbled across me and share time, advice and opinions with me. I know I've written about this before and it's kind of lazy to repeat myself. But I still feel lucky that I can reach out and get an opinion on a book or a movie or an idea. That I have knowledgable people who share their knowledge with me. That I have creative people who share the fruits of their efforts with me, who help me tailor mine and who inspire me to keep moving forward. I cant help but think that is awesomesauce.

I sent a short section of my nameless novel to Ivy and got back some marvelous criticism. Useful but not painful–the best kind. Since I'm very afraid to share my fiction with anyone (reason #2 why my novels don't get finished), it helps to tear the bandaid off in a positive way.

I started this blog entry with a clear thesis in mind but as the rain draws closer I'm losing my conclusion. It was something about being grateful to have these people placed in my life. Nothing earth shattering or thrilling. Just bragging about my good fortune.

It's Friday of a week that has been very hard for me emotionally. I've struggled against depression more this week than I have in months. Ive wrestled with hard ideas and the hard people who seek comfort in them. So I tried to write about the things that bring me joy. To seize peace from the steel-fanged jaws of sorrow. As unsurprising as it may seem, I find peace in the magic of written words. I don't think it is an accident that one of the names for God is Logos–the Word.

I suppose I could end this rambling mess with a selection of poetry–National Poetry Month should be good for something–but off the top of my head all I can think of is "oh, that Shakespearean Rag" and that makes no sort of sense.

Speaking of making no sense, isn't odd that they picked April for Natpomon? One of the most famous lines of poetry is "April is the cruelest month". Choosing April is just asking people to make fun.

Oh well. We made it through yesterday, which is one of the Damned Days in History. Enjoy the Ides of April. Pay your taxes. Read a poem. Pretend I had a decent blog entry today, complete with sensible conclusion.

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