trick pony

Ariadne in Naxos, Evelyn De Morgan (1877)

Rainstorm blustering through this Sunday afternoon. I spent five hours cooking–made two quiches, one spinach, one mushroom and leek, and a meat sauce for pasta with fresh tomatoes, oregano, and garlic. Cooking for the work week on Sundays strikes a blow against the zombie run’s greedy gulping of my time and energy.

Watched a strange little film yesterday–The Ceremony. Really couldn’t figure out what was going on until nearly the end. The movie began oddly so deeply in medias res that I thought the download mistakenly began 30 minutes in. Anyway, it was spooky and annoyingly filmed mostly in the dark with long moments where the screen would go completely black–making me mutter stuff to Levi, who, by the way, threw up all over my bed the other evening. Nothing like dragging myself in from the coils of the 405 tired and hungry and having to clean up cat vomit and strip the bed while Levi complacently ate his dinner. Never mind mine.

******

Sitting down to write, I always think I must WRITE THE STORY–even if I don’t quite know what I’m going to write, or what comes next. Of course I sit staring, watching the block build itself brick by brick. This is where writing practice comes in–the mindful showing up and writing whatever comes to mind. I may know a certain story question, but not its answer or I might’ve seen a plot issue looming or a story point that could lead to more but have no idea how to get there. Getting there is what writing practice, its joy and usefulness, is all about. Since The Foreigner is behaving like a recalcitrant two-year old, I was delighted to discover writing outside the story–a kick in the pen when the bricks are stacking up and the pen is at a standstill, and if you wonder why writing practice, Judy Reeves gives a good answer.

Write mindfully.

blue and gold

A Classical Beauty. John William Godward

A Classical Beauty, John William Godward

The weekend all blue and gold, draped and drenched in sunlight, a real summer weekend at last! Saturday afternoon, after coming home from my writer’s meeting, I worked a little on the November 2008 NaNo manuscript. I’ve got the skeleton of the plot fully laid out in my head, but the rewrite will take more time and focus than I have to give right now.

At the meeting I read Three Heartbeats, received excellent and useful feedback–don’t know what I’m going to do to resolve some of the issues the story has, but it can rest a while in the swamp.

Sunday I worked on Sweet Taboo, trying to figure out what to do from the point where I am, and this morning, doing story notes for it, I got more insight about the theme(s) and now know where to take each character’s storyline. Demario is turning significant, and will be a linchpin for Deidre’s action. Randall will come to a certain realization, and Kenny…well Kenny has a ways to go in his struggle, but he’ll get his epiphany. I think the ghostslayer Nathaniel will help with that.

I’ve finally got each thread focused, and I can see ahead a little. I was beginning to think I’d be lost in the fog hovering over this story for a while longer, but looks like I’ve got a chance to finish the rewrite with a very satisfying conclusion. Aiming to have it done by December 31st.

Watched more Blood Ties online, and the later stories raised my opinion of the series; still think True Blood is better, but I like this show, particularly enjoyed the love triangle between Mike, Vicky, and Henry, (beautifully played by Kyle Schmid) and the snappy dialogue. Have only the final show left to watch, but I’ve ordered both seasons from Amazon. Good series; too bad it was canceled after two seasons. Why did they do that?  There was terrific set-up for Vicky’s demon marks, and it looked like Mike and Henry might come to terms in some way, possibly, somewhere down the line, and of course there was Vicky’s and Henry’s relationship. Damn! I really wanted to see that continue.

rubyfruit

Pomegranates

Ten days ago I said I would write…start writing the synopsis for Loose Daddy. Have not written word one. Oh well.

But I finished Three Heartbeats, (formerly The Girl in the Swamp Forest) which I began writing four or so months ago. That’s the first time I’ve finished a short story in less than, let’s say, many years, in a long time. Perhaps I’m improving. I’ll go over it again, but I’m pleased with it and with myself for finishing it without my usual franxiety (frantic anxiety) and silent wailing.

Meanwhile, I re-read my 2008 Nano manuscript and fell into its allure. This week I assembled a working outline, which I’ll expand, along with writing additional story notes. I cut the 55,030 words down to 30,000 or so–got rid of stuff that didn’t suit–so I could take a good look at the story bones and see what to do. I love this story.

Yesterday Netflix delivered the first dvd of Blood Ties, the Canadian vampire series based on Tanya Huff’s novels, which I have not read. I watched the episodes with some impatience, not really taking to the main characters, except Henry Fitzroy. I ordered all of Season 1, but I think Henry will be the only reason I keep watching, for a while anyway. I think  True Blood is better. True Blood’s characters have more depth, more dimension, and the episodes are better plotted. I’ll see how it goes with Blood Ties.

loverly

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It is a gorgeous day–so lovely you want to turn cartwheels in the grass. The sun is peacefully hot made balmy by breezes blowing cool off the perfectly tinted aquamarine sea. Think I’m going to have to take a walk on the bluff in a little while.  The annual Long Beach Crawfish Festival opened at noon today, the final day, and I skipped off to it, my first time going in all the years I’ve lived here. Louisiana food, footloose zydeco, and family fun–for those with families. I invited my sisters and nieces but they couldn’t make it. Maybe next year. And the annual Lobster Festival is coming up in September. I’ve never gone to that one either.

I stuffed myself on a platter of crawfish, baby potatoes and corn–two pounds of crawfish and I ate every last one (making up for not having had any since 1980-something), finished off with beignets and chicory coffee. Bon temps!

This afternoon I’m going to finish printing out the latest revised version of LOOSE DADDY. Last night before settling down to viewing the last Season 1 episode of TRUE BLOOD,  I wrote 352 words on NYRABET AND THE SWORDWOMAN,  bringing the story to 2,032 words so far. This one is unfolding slowly, no frets though.

I may look at THE GIRL IN THE SWAMP later.

Meanwhile, I’ve now run out of my favorite shows until the latest seasons become available at Netflix. SUPERNATURAL, Season 4–where are you? TRUE BLOOD, Season 2–waiting. Fortunately I’ve got MAD MEN, Season 2 comng, and my LEXX movies to watch. Oh yeah, still waiting on THE TUDORS, Season 2!

all of a piece

Les Diabolliques.Barbey dAurevilly by Felicien Rops

Les Diaboliques, Felicien Rops

Watching TRUE BLOOD last night showed me how to write an “in-between” scene, one of those scenes that help develop the plot between its major turns. I’m always at a loss about what happens between the major plot points. Even when I have the whole plot in mind, there’s still those great white spaces waiting to swallow me. Soon enough I’m back at my m.o., the caterpillar wailing and flailing on the tip of the grass stalk until I flounder onto the next grass stalk.

It’s easy for me to write the scenes that comprise the actual plot–the opening, getting the conflict established, establishing the setting, introducing this or that character, getting to the first plot point–but how to develop it, how to make it richer, coherent, all of a piece?

The scene I watched Monday night was between Sookie and Sam over coffee and pie after the gathering at the church to hear Bill talk about fighting in the Civil War. It was a small scene that progressed to a strong, plot-point scene (and added a new detail about Sam) and seeing how this was done fascinated me, and gave me a clue about how to write Ally’s first date with Carl in SHADOW WALK.

What I learned was focus these scenes on other aspects of the story that contribute to the major plot, or the story’s arc, which means figuring out what those things are and working them into the story. Duh! “In-between” scenes must do the same thing major plot scenes do:

Have conflict; Present new information; Deepen character; and move the plot a step forward. Simple!

blueberry

ACorneroftheVilla.Sir Edward John Poynter

A Corner of the Villa, Sir Edward John Poynter

32,000, Shadow Walk. Trying to keep the momentum going. The end plot still eludes me. Although Elias is about to introduce himself to Ally–about time.

Netflix darling: True Blood. It’s so nice to fall in love again. Took me a while to get around to this show. It captures the provincial small town of my home state, Louisiana, fairly well, except for the accent–Louisiana’s southern accent is not like the  accents of Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. It’s softer, sing-songy, influenced by the rhythm of Cajun French. However, the Georgia accents of True Blood are close enough, I guess. Got to say, the heavy sex on this show makes me blush, but I like Bill and Sookie as well as the supporting characters. I’ve not read the books. Don’t know if I will; love the show.

To my surprise, I didn’t care for Moonlight.

lucent

waterhouse_ariadne

Ariadne, John William Waterhouse

I’ve downgraded the word count to 80,000. I may go pass that, but not in this draft, I think. Last week I left Gaius staring his problem in the face and worked on Ferrant’s portion, now I’m back to Gaius. A tiny idea has blossomed into a new story sequence and I’m ready to write the first scene in the sequence this morning, only it’s always hard getting into a new scene. That first sentence scampers about like a frightened little mouse, eluding my grasp. Even though I know what my aims are, I’m always at a lost for those first words.

Continuing with my passion for vampire films, last night’s Netflix darling was a Romanian-made  film, Vampire Journals. The vampires were sophisticated, and the film used the classic tropes–pale as bone, alluring, blood-drinking, night beings with the power of speed and flight. The setting was wonderful, an elegantly decayed East European city, perhaps Romanian, a decadent night club run by the vampire villain, and a very gothic atmosphere. A tale of pursuit and vengeance. Both hero and villain were vampires, and the heroine was a young American concert pianist. Seeking revenge for the loss of his vampire lover, the hero–loathing what he was, hunted and killed other vampires–sought to destroy the villain, a master vampire, and all in his bloodline. I liked it. And, oh yeah, an interesting thing was done that I’d not seen done before–when the master vampire- who was thousands of years old, fell into death-sleep at dawn, he became a decayed corpse, and when he reawakened, he metamorphosed to a human appearance again. Will have to see if I can find a copy of this film for sale.

giving up the ghost

waterhouse_the_household_gods

The Household Gods, John William Waterhouse

Every fiction has its language, its vocabulary, that helps to create its tone and style. As I write  A Lamentation of Swans, I’m searching for its language. for the right words that will yield the tone, make the style, give the story its own unique voice. While I’m still trying to avoid the titanium wall of perfectionism, I know that when I write, I like to get it right the first time, (or as close to right as possible) and after that, it’s a matter of embellish, burnish, and smooth.

I’ve tried to adopt the shitty first draft perspective,  but I always find myself rewriting word by word, sentence by sentence, from the start. My first drafts can be messy–all that slicing and dicing, re-constructing, all those red and blue and black notes cluttering the page. The words may not be in the right place yet but they’d better mean what I want them to mean, they’d better have weight and energy,  or I can’t move on. This of course is why it’s taken me so long with A Lamentation of Swans, and anything else I write, except the November novel.

So I don’t mind a first draft that’s a crazy quilt, but if the words are dumb, the writing stupid, banal,  ’cause I’m trying to just get through it–that doesn’t work. All it means is I’m going to drop the whole kaboodle in the trash and start over–I really hate doing that. But the nice thing about the November novel is there lies a bit of treasure in all that rubbish.

Finally received my copy of Caitlin Kiernan’s A is for Alien, and the chapbook that came with the Limited Edition, B is for Beginnings. I decided to read the chapbook first, treating myself to one story a day. Yesterday I read Between the Flatiron and the Deep Green Sea and this morning’s tale was Persephone. I can hardly wait until Subterranean Press puts The Red Tree (her latest completed novel) up for pre-order.

Last night’s Netflix darling was the first dvd of Trinity Blood.

It’s stopped raining. Yesterday was sunshine and easy breezes, not hot, and only a little bit cold. Today is more of the same.

This morning I rewrote yesterday’s scene between Gaius and Annasara, 574 words. They are still in Lucalla, but I think they’ll be leaving soon.

MAD MEN

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The cast of MAD MEN

My latest Netflix darling: MAD MEN, the new television series about Madison Avenue advertising execs in 1960. The show is excellently written and acted, and I really like it. The main character is a top ad exec who has reinvented himself, hiding his past. It has high production values and portrays the business and social world of 1960 in beautiful detail. I’m glad I was not a grown-up young woman at that time. The rampant sexism in the business world–the secretaries in the office can barely breathe without the men making moves on them, talking about them like they were so many sheep, cattle, mares, and assuming that they have breasts so no brains. Some of the things the execs say to the secretaries make my mouth drop open.

The idea that a woman might be good at writing ad copy was revolutionary, not to say practically heresy in the cigarette smoke and martini-laced world of advertising at the time.

And, my goodness, the executive suite sure has changed! In 1960 it was common to have liquor in the corp office, to serve cocktails and food to clients, and I saw on one show where the secretaries, if they got the munchies or needed a quick lunch, there was a caterer’s set up in the office and you could go buy a sandwich or a danish or whatever. Guess vending machines replaced that.

Of course being black I would not have been a secretary in an ad office of the time. The only blacks on the show run the elevator and do janitorial work, or belong to the hip generation of 1960’s radicals and freethinkers. The life of the housewife was smothering, and if you were a divorcee, omg, pariah city. Fascinating show.

too much fun!

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13,119, A Lamentation of Swans. What I did for fun in 2008:

Books Read

  • Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  • The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, Ann Packer
  • Inferno, ed. Ellen Datlow
  • Veronica, Mary Gaitskill
  • Plainsong, Kent Haruf
  • Throne of Jade, Naomi Novik
  • Working for the Devil, Lilith Saintcrow
  • Dead Man Rising, Lilith Saintcrow
  • The Devil’s Right Hand, Lilith Saintcrow
  • Saint City Sinners, Lilith Saintcrow
  • The Butcher’s Boy, Thomas Perry
  • The Smartest Guys in the Room
  • Parasite Rex
  • Cocaine Chronicles, ed. Gary Phillips and Jervey Tervalon
  • Saint-Germain Chronicles, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • A Dangerous Climate, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Midnight Harvest, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
  • Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
  • New Moon, Stephanie Meyer
  • Eclipse, Stephanie Meyer
  • Clockwork Phoenix, ed. Mike Allen
  • Beast of Desire, Lisa Renee Jones
  • Betrayals, Janet Quinn

Movies Seen

  • Twilight
  • Burn After Reading
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Dark Knight
  • Quantum of Solace
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Prince Caspian
  • Wanted
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • Michael Clayton (Netflix)
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (Netflix)
  • Perfect Creature (Netflix)
  • The Guardian (Netflix) (Ick!)
  • In Bruges (Netflix)
  • Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (Netflix) (delightful)
  • Shoot ‘Em Up (Netflix)
  • Mrs. Brown, Queen Victoria (Netflix)
  • An Ideal Husband (Netflix)
  • 30 Days of Night (Netflix)

Favorite Stuff of 2008

Favorite Movie: Twilight. (I just loved it! Loved it, I say!)

Favorite Book: Twilight (I’m going to read it again.)

Favorite Movie Sequence: vampire baseball in Twilight

Favorite Vampire: Edward Cullen (Don’t worry, Saint-Germain. There’s still room for you. Oh yeah, and you too Jean-Claude, and Asher; Oh yes, and Angel. Okay–so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite, favorite vampire.  I love ’em all. Y’all have to share, okay?)

Favorite Superhero: Batman

Favorite Anti-hero: James Bond (‘Though Jason Bourne runs a close second.)

Favorite Actor: It’s a tie between Christian Bale and Daniel Craig.

Favorite TV Show via Netflix: Supernatural

Favorite Heroes: Dean and Sam

Favorite dvd discoveries: Rome; The Tudors