Friday, November 30, 2007
As a NYT columnist wrote this week:
Imagine Albania playing for the World Cup title in soccer, or an amateur golfer approaching the final hole with the United States Open at stake. Think of Adam Sandler as a nominee for best actor at the Academy Awards. . .Over the past four decades, Missouri football has sent reporters thumbing through their thesauruses to find new ways to describe the Tigers’ football futility.
We're not even insulted. We understand. We're in shock, too.
Please root for the undertiger tonight!! We're such undertigers that a friend of mine has changed her cheer to, "Go, Tiggers!"
Thursday, November 29, 2007
One was that a character said to another, "T'sup?" Nope. That's a recent locution. You wouldn't have heard it in Harlem, Haight-Ashbury, or Kansas City.
The other telling, and wrong, detail was the way in which a character pronounced, "cool." Oh, we said "cool," back then, but it was pronounced very differently from how it is said now. Then, it was just a straightforward, "cool," in the way you'd say, "We have cool weather." Cool car. Cool girl. Cool party. But there was no special inflection, there were no extra syllables, just. . .cool. It wasn't used as a single word either, but only in a complete sentence. "He's so cool!" "What a cool car!" I think its meaning was a little different then, too. It was all about popularity and/or attitude, not so much about voicing approval or agreement. ("Want to go get drunk and throw up?" "Sure. Cool.") The preppy (also not used then) quarterback of your high school team might be cool, but so was James Dean. (They were also "dreamy.") But nothing was "coo-uhl," or all the other inventive ways the word is pronounced now. It's cool the way it's used now. I like it. But it's different from how it was used back in the day (which is also a phrase you would never have heard in the 60's). There was no such thing as the word "uncool," either. Neither was there a "chill," except in the air, or a chill-out.
It's tough to get every detail right when you're doing a period piece, whether in a novel or a film. I don't like to watch Vietnam era movies anymore because we're far enough away from it that the portrayals tend to be just off, or way off. Simply playing "White Rabbit," wearing tie-dye, and saying groovy a lot doesn't do it. (There were several different ways to say groovy, btw, much as there are for "cool" now.) It's the same with the Fifties. Sometimes I can barely recognize the time they think they're depicting. Makes you wonder about movies about the French Revolution, doesn't it?
You probably think I'm leading up to some point with this, don't you? Ha! I guess my only point is a plea. . .if you're writing about a time when you weren't here, and there are still people around who were, check it out with them. They can tell a cool from a coo-ul, and a what's happenin' from a T'sup? and a Brother from a bro. Some of you may remember that when I was writing Virgin I asked on the Booman Tribune blog if anybody remembered if boys called girls "hot chicks" back in the eighties. Thanks to your input, I decided to say it another way. Things like that can make a difference in leading the reader to trust everything else you tell them.
And thass a fact (which was also not said back then in the same way that it's used now).
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
I'm thinking of that, because on Sunday I had the privilege of sitting in the company of a Tibetan lama who has healed himself of injuries and ailments. (His story is here.) We shouldn't feel bad if we can't do what he has done, however. He meditates about ten hours a day and received healing practices from the Dalai Lama, so he was mended in a first-class Tibetan ER, you might say.
Personally, I have no trouble believing these things happen, because I've experienced minor examples in my own life. The first was in my early twenties soon after I began living on my own, away from my parents' home. One day I began to get that feeling you get when coming down with the flu. You know that feeling? Achy, feverish, etc. I caught myself thinking, at a barely perceptible conscious level, "Oh, good, now my mom will take care of me and bring me crackers and chicken soup." The moment I caught that fleeting wish, I thought, "Wait a minute! I'm not at home. My mom won't be here to take care of me!"
I got well so fast you'd have thought somebody had waved a magic wand.
It was pretty funny, and pretty darned instructive.
How 'bout you? Ever heal yourself? Ever see somebody else do that? Do you believe it can happen?
Friday, November 23, 2007
Friday afternoon, katiebird and I met for coffee. As we stood in line, a man popped into the shop, and called, "Did somebody lose this glove?" Immediately, without even looking, I knew it was me, because when it comes to lost gloves, it's always me. I turned, said, "I did!" and took it back, with thanks.
He popped back out of the shop.
In the middle of my chat with kb, I realized I was missing an earring.
Katiebird kindly went up front to ask if they'd found it.
"Here it is!" a barrista exclaimed, holding it up. "We were just talking about it."
On the way out of the store, a woman behind me called, "Did you drop this?"
I turned, saw the same glove on the ground, grabbed it and thanked her.
As I did so, the scarf around my neck slid off and fell to the pavement. . .
Kb and I promptly walked to a bead shop so I could buy those plastic thingees that keep earrings from coming out, and when I got home I sewed up the hole in my pocket.
Until just a few minutes ago, the only thing I thought about that series of events was that it was funny. But then it hit me: four examples of kindness, all within an hour's time. There was the man who picked up the glove and went to the trouble of coming back into the coffee shop. There was whoever found my earring and turned it in. There were the barristas who took care of it and turned it back to katiebird for me. And there was the woman who alerted me that I had dropped my glove. And that isn't even counting how nice katiebird was to fetch the earring, and then walk to the bead shop with me.
I love this new collection of mine. I'm glad I was such a "loser" yesterday, so that I could be the beneficiary of so much thoughtfulness.
And here's an amusing addendum to my story: when I went looking for an illustration, I typed "lost glove" into Google Images, and then I followed one of the photos to its website. It turned out to be a site where a fellow took photos of lost gloves! He took 120 pictures before he got bored. Now, apparently, he's collecting the actual gloves, lol. If you'd like to see more like the one above, here's the link.
Has anyone gone out of their way for you lately?
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Have I mentioned that I love Costco? I know how you all love it, too, so pile in my car, and we'll go get stuffed on their freebie food samples.
Monday, November 19, 2007
It's no wonder they're fat: their authors needed room and space for stories jam-packed with action and characters, plots and sub-plots. Quests were big in our books, as were secrets, and magic, and exceptionally strong characters, whether it was Stephanie Plum or King Arthur. Rebels and/or misfits were popular. Humor factored in. (Though that was mentioned specifically by only a few of you, I detected its presence in many of the other choices, too.) Entire new worlds were invented by the authors of many of "our" books, and even if the world wasn't new, the perception of it was. These were not books that were easy to write, that came quickly, that the authors just slid out of their pens in their spare time.
You picked books whose authors weren't afraid to make their characters love big, risk much, and suffer along the way. It could even be argued--with a smile--that P.G. Wodehouse made Bertie Wooster (and those around him) suffer as much as possible for maximum comic effect. Certainly nobody could deny that Jeeves was "long-suffering," lol.
The irony of the fact that so many of us adore big fat delicious novels is that publishing isn't all that encouraging of big fat juicy books. (Which are not the same as overstuffed, "padded" novels.) In the genres, publishers want a book per year, or--if you're a category romance author--more. Big fat books still do get published--think J.K. Rowling, John Irving, Diana Gabaldon, or Stephen King--but they take determined authors who are willing to make sacrifices in order to take the time they need to finish a book of that size, scope, and wonderfulness. And by "sacrifice," I mean they make whatever sacrifices they must make in their own lives, rather than sacrifice the book they're writing.
But it isn't just the authors of fat books who suffer from the time and money crunch--it's also hard for authors of skinnier books to grab enough time from the publishing schedule to raise the quality of their books as the years go by. I remember the editor who admitted to me a few years ago that the latest book by one of her best-selling authors wasn't very good. "I pushed her to get it in before it was ready," the editor told me. Having read the novel in question, I could only think, "Yeah, no shit." Much less successful writers also feel the whip of publishing schedules that have no connection to the writer's creative ebb and flow. (I'm not talking about myself. I have a patient editor.) I don't expect anybody to pity these writers, but I do think their dilemma illustrates that the words "publishing" and "sanity" don't belong in the same sentence.
When it does happen--when the publishing devils shut their yappy mouths and sit on their hyperactive hands and let great writers take the time they need to write great books, and maybe even pay them while they're doing it-- then there's rejoicing in Reader Heaven. And that's where all of us were, during the magical days and nights when we devoured those books we listed yesterday.
Thanks to those authors for big fat unforgettable books, or for short skinny memorable ones, and thanks to you guys for humoring me!
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Around here we sometimes quote Donald Maass, who's a literary agent and a writer. I'm rereading one of his books, Writing the Breakout Novel, and I came across a question that's not just for writers, and which reminds me that every time I read a book about writing, it also turns out to be about life.
His question is:
What are your top three favorite novels of all time? He goes on to say, "No doubt you have far more than three, but choose three for starters."
Mine turned out to be: Lost Horizon by James Hilton, The Once and Future King by T. H. White, and The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse by Louise Erdrich. I'm not somebody who re-reads novels, so I suspect I wouldn't find those as wonderful a second time around, but that doesn't matter. What I'm remembering is how they left me feeling hypnotized and exalted at the time I read them. There have been others that also did that, but these are the three that came to me for my list.
Then Maass asks, What do your three novels have in common?
I was pretty damned interested to find out that the things that came to my mind about my favs were: magic, idealism, transformation, revolution, and secrets.
What he's getting at, of course, is trying to nudge writers toward writing what we also love to read. But it seems to me that looking at what mesmerizes us in fiction may not be a bad way of identifying what inspires us in life, or even what's missing from our lives.
Want to play? Don't agonize too much. Just pick the three that pop to the top of your mind and stay there. You can have another three later, if you want to. (The Great Gatsby and The Lord of the Rings really want to squeeze into my list, but I'm sticking to my original three.)
Oh, and nobody gets to criticize your choices. That's an order. King Arthur says so.
Friday, November 16, 2007
What's up with your weekend?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
It's about lurkers and newbies. Hi, out there!
Lately, we've had a few people dropping by to say a quick hi, or even stay and join the family. I'm so happy when that happens, and I'm pretty sure I can safely assert that all the "regulars" join me in those feelings.
If you're just visiting, I hope you enjoy your tour. Come on into the comments and meet the Krazy Kids who hang out there slurping coffee, except for Kelly who likes tea.
If you're a lurker, you're safe with us. If you ever step into the light, we'll try not to make it so bright that it hurts your eyes. I'm not even going to use this post as an excuse to try to lure you out. You'll delurk when the time is right, if it is ever right. And it's okay if it isn't. We're big on doing your own thing. Meanwhile, I hope you find some interesting and/or inspiring fun around here.
If you're a newbie, I hope you're feeling welcome. We're very glad you're here.
If you're an Olde Regular, I love you guys. But you know that.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Although, that would make a good story. . .
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
My plan for tonight is: blog.
During the daylight hours, I need to disappear into that other thing I do, but I'll see you when the moon rises. Meanwhile, the regular tables are reserved for you, the coffee's hot, we have Kelly's fav teas, and it's not as if you can't find anything to talk about!
See you in a few hours.
I bragged yesterday that I'm writing my fifth short story in three weeks. They have come naturally and easily, and I suspect it's because there was memorable emotion that "birthed" each one of them, even if that birth was decades ago.
The five stories came from these emotions. . .
The fear. . .no, make that terror. . .I had of werewolves dating from when I saw "The Werewolf" when I was maybe eight years old.
The poignancy I felt when we'd take our toddler into restaurants in south Florida and he'd get lots of longing attention from grandparents who missed their own grandkids.
My annoyance over "fan" mail from people who object to any "bad" language I use.
The emptiness I felt when I couldn't communicate with somebody I loved, when I was eighteen.
The unrequited love I felt for a fellow who considered me just a friend, when we were twenty-one.
Contrast that with the book I'm supposedly working on and which is causing me so much trouble. When I try to think about any deep emotion that birthed it, I come up blank. It may be there, but if it is, I haven't felt it yet.
Years ago, I was struggling with a novel, Twilight, that wouldn't let me advance past page 84. I couldn't push out a single word for months. Things got desperate. Finally, one sad day, I gave up. That night, I had a dream in which I felt deep emotion, and when I woke up I realized that's what my heroine would feel on page 85. It was an emotion that I had never felt before, so no wonder I hadn't been able to put it onto the page. Within an hour after I woke up, I was writing again! I wrote 26 pages that day, and finished the book in two weeks, the fastest I've ever written any novel.
My guess is that if were to think back on the stories and books of mine that I consider to be my best ones, I'd find emotion at the heart of them. My emotion. And if I were to look at the ones of mine that I think are my weakest, I'd realize that I had no personal emotional connection to them, and that they were more like a strictly mental exercise of putting together a plot.
I don't know if this late-coming epiphany of mine will help anybody else, but I think it may help me. So thanks for listening as I work it out, out loud.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
neighborhood. . .
Boran2 has the next installment of his new painting posted on his
blog. . .
Dada has a music show! See comments for instructions. . .
Beth's in New Hampshire. . .
Katiebird's blog is down because of server problems. . . :(
Knucklehead has moved into his
new digs, so he's back at his blog. :)
Conda wants to know how you follow your bliss. . .
Jen's got a rant up, and rightfully so. .
Farfetched has Episode 13 posted. . .
Kimberly has book recommendations. . .
Man Eegee has Bud, and that's enough for anybody. . .
Rick got tagged. . .
Family man is up and dancing (or was on Saturday). . .
Ghostfolk's blog is a ghost (see comments). . .
I'm waiting for Monday so I can see Olivia's next photo at her place and Andif's next one here. . . Update! See comments!
Kelly's blog is romancing the dead. . .
Maria is back from the con. . .
And a friend on the picket lines recommends these links about the Writer's Strike:
Friday, November 9, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
For your amusement (and mine), from the book The Secret House (The Extraordinary Science of an Ordinary Day), by David Bodanis:
Anti-perspirants do not work by jamming little particles into the openings of the sweat pores in the armpits. . . Aluminum flecks, which are the key ingredient, are negatively charged. That means the extra furry cloud of negative electrons they carry around with them counter-balances the normal positive charge on the skin surface. There's a crackle, some static, the equivalent of sparks, and the whole system is shut, short-circuited, and out of operation for hours. The sweat caught inside dissolves back into the body, crumbling through cracks in the sweat tubes like water from a leaky hose.
For the deodorizing effect. . . a little perfume is mixed in. There's also a nice dose of insecticide and bactericide, chemicals that are near-identical to the poisons in your garden shed, and which here are murder on any soft, unshelled creatures in their way. (They) are as acid as lemon juice. The furry. . .bacteria in your armpits are wiped out, whole colonies coated with poison and left to suffocate where they rest hugging the armpit hairs. Most go in 30 minutes. . .it's their defecation of ammonia that produces the smell we're trying to avoid in using these armpit slaughtering agents.
Perhaps you'd just as soon I stopped there? :)
Who figures this stuff out??
IT'S FRIDAY!! What's gonna make you snap, crackle, and pop this weekend?
Update: Don't miss Rick's story in the comments. It's wonderful.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I guess y'all have seen the Writers Guild of America has gone on strike in Hollywood. Those guys and gals pretty much live on residuals; as DVD sales make up a bigger piece of the pie, they're asking for (among other things) a royalty increase from 4 cents to 8 cents per DVD. The studios are flat refusing to budge on the DVD issue though.It occurs to me that, as writers, we can support our cousins in Hollywood (and elsewhere) by turning off our TVs until the strike is settled. I know that's difficult for a lot of people, and I rarely watch TV anyway, but doing it (and letting the AMPTP know about it) might help — if studios lose their audience, they're toast.
Let 'em know:
Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers
15503 Ventura Boulevard
Encino, CA 91436818-995-3600
If we could get them 1000 letters, they will interpret that as a million lost viewers and I think there will be some rapid action. Despite the rhetoric of the AMPTP about "wealthy writers," the vast majority of WGA members earn less per year than I do as a technical writer.
Spread the word around. I'm going to.
You might want to also email supportive messages to email@example.com -- I did.
Note from Nancy: I did, too. Turned off tv. (And lived to tell about it. So far.) E'ed the AMPTP. E'ed the WGA.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Sometimes I actually can answer a question like that, because of some conscious choice, but a lot of times it's a funny and fascinating question that I can't even hope to answer, because there's no conscious choice involved at all. So when readers ask me things such as, "Why did character X do that?". . .my answer boils down to, "Because he did." Not very helpful, lol. But when a story feels good, it also feels as if it really must have happened to these people for all the reason things happen to us real people. Sometimes we know why. Sometimes we don't. But things keep happening, nevertheless.
Why did I pick that victim, or any of the other characters?
I kind of think they picked me. "Yo, you. Write about us. Now."
Okay, I say meekly. And listen hard and just type. Or so it seems in hindsight.
Writing is a VERY mysterious way to spend a life. :)
Sunday, November 4, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
I love this latest photo from Andif. (I've got it "large," and if that messes up you guys with dial-up, and smaller will help, just let me know, okay?) Surely there's a ghost in that photo somewhere. It looks like the opening shot of a movie, doesn't it? Now the camera will pull back to. . .comments.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Is anybody else having lots of coincidences happening in your life lately?
Here's my latest: You know the "Games" link to the right? It leads to Big Fish Games, which is a company I really, really love because so many of their games are bright and pretty and fun, and they let you play ALL of them for free for an HOUR per game, and they seem to me to be a really safe, secure site. I found them about a year ago, thanks to a rave review in (I think) WaPo.
Eventually, after playing so many of their games for free without ever buying one, because I was broke at the time, I thought the least I could do was to spread the good word about them. So, when I opened this blog, I linked to their site. (I have bought a couple of their games since then.)
Well, yesterday, out of the blue, I got an email from a woman who asked if she could talk to me about the love that so many female readers have for mysteries. She wants to do that, because her company has a client that is creating "mystery" games. She wanted to ask permission for her company to give my name as a source for reporters. Good publicity for her client, but also nice for me.
Who's her client? Yup, Big Fish. I said I'd be happy to. Big Smile.
Is anything frosting your pumpkin today?