Thank you…

I really appreciate all the care and support while I’ve been having my existential melt down. It helped a lot to write it down, it helped a lot to “hear” what you all had to say, your experiences, your take on it.

It actually helped me figure it out.

Five years ago I saw the handwriting on the wall. My job was being “outsourced” to another department at the university and no one was going to tell us. There were five of us who had 3 year contracts to teach Business Communication. I had a year left. I had every intention of finishing my contact before retiring, but I ended up without the choice. An “under-the-table” deal was made and, since no one went to the union to complain until I did at the last minute, it was, essentially, a fait accompli. But in English. Looking at most of my income gone, I had to retire and leave. OK. Psychologically I was ready. Physically? I was already showing signs of the hip arthritis I had remedied in 2018.

My move to Colorado was great. I’m happy to be back, but it was a little freaky that — though a native — I didn’t know how to live here any more. It all came back, but there was a long period of adjusting both to retirement and life in a very small town I’d only visited once.

This blog helped me a lot as did the one I wrote specially about my move. That blog is gone, but it was good for me to write.

The first thing I did when I moved here was get an Airdyne. I knew I was overweight and in terrible physical condition. I wanted to be able to hike in the mountains and do things I wasn’t able to do. I wasn’t me, but I’d had to work so much the last few years I lived in California that there was nothing in my life but driving, teaching and all the things connected with teaching — grading, prepping, meetings, etc. When I finally moved into my house, the dogs and I began walking on the golf course and going 1/2 mile was difficult for me (and for Mindy T. Dog ❤ ) but we got better. The Airdyne was good, I did get in better shape, I was able to do yoga again (meaning getting down onto and up from the floor) and I did lose a little weight.

Still, the struggle to regain my body took so much longer than I imagined it could. I didn’t even realize until the end of 2017 WHAT my mobility problem was. Then came the search for a surgeon.

Meanwhile, I wrote. I arrived in Colorado with a work in progress, The Brothers Path. In 2017 I finished an important book — My Everest which is about my time in California hiking with my dogs. It was a total labor of love to put that book together. Then I sucked it up and finished The Price which was very difficult to write for numerous reasons I’ve already written about. The surgery worked and my pre-op training and post-op training have returned to me a body with abilities I haven’t had in a decade. I still can’t run. Maybe I won’t ever run — I do try, though.

I’m grateful and lucky. But at this point in time there is also the feeling that another shoe WILL fall. I will be 67 this coming Monday.

We always say we want to have no regrets, but I don’t think anyone can reach this point in life without regrets. I’m surprised at what mine are. I wrote about that, and last night a friend said, “Lots of people say they want to write books but they never do. You’ve written 3 (actually 6 1/2 but who’s counting?)…can’t you look at writing them the way you look at all your hikes? You never thought about point B; you just went.” He is absolutely right. That’s exactly how I can look at my books and writing itself. Everything, maybe.

This morning I read Cara Sue Achterberg’s blog post, on “My Life in Paragraphs.” She writes about how she and her husband are figuring out together what they want the next step in their lives to be. They’re about to be “empty-nesters” and they’re addressing this question with colored Post-It Notes on which they each write something they want in their future or want their future to be. Cara ultimately asks, “What do you want?” and my first thought was, “A marriage like yours, but that ship has sailed.” ❤

As I read, I thought about the different transitions — the late-40’s transition and the late-60’s transition. I didn’t notice the late 40’s one because the usual late 40’s physical stuff happened to me a lot earlier. Looking back, the time between 47 and 54 were really great years for me and, thankfully, most of the time I knew it. Physical debility and a bad love relationship set the “tone” for the next decade, neither of which I could possibly have seen coming. I thought, “I had the house I wanted. I lived in the mountains. I had great dogs. I hiked with awesome human companions, too. I had the job I wanted. I had all I wanted and then…”

It’s always a balancing act between what we want and what we get, I guess.

Yesterday I wanted Cross Country Skis. I texted the local outdoor store — Kristi Mountain Sports — and asked the appropriate questions. Today I got an answer. As it happens, I had written things down on a Post-It note.


Basically, what Kristi Mountain Sports has for sale is exactly what I want.

Today I want $550. It’s right there! It’s even on a Post-It Note! 😀 But I also want to know that if I buy the skis (which means more debt until the tax refund) I’ll actually use them. I have this big white dog and she doesn’t ski.

Anyway, I realized that I if I were to continue with the Post-It Notes, that what I want is a new adventure. I feel a little nervous even saying that — let alone committing it to an actual Post-It Note — because the universe might go, “You want adventure? Ha! I’ll give you adventure.” No, universe, this time let me find my own. ❤

Showing and Telling

Funny that the word “persist” turns up as the prompt today. I’ve been looking at the work in progress wondering, “What next?” One direction and it’s a book I’ve already written. The other direction?” Something else completely. 

The only reason to write a story is because you want to. I guess there are people who make a lot of money from the stories they write, but I’m not one of them. 

One of the questions I ask myself when I’m writing is “How do I want to tell this?” With historical fiction, that’s kind of tricky. People reading the story don’t live in that historical world. People in the story do. For me there’s a fine line between offering the reader enough to see and feel that alien world and making it alien to the characters, too.

How much do we really notice about our world in the course of a day? When we walk through our house do we say to ourselves, “She passed the dishwasher then the beige and white cupboards on her way to the backdoor where the 85 pound black short-haired dog and the 75 pound long-haired white dog with the blue eyes were waiting to be let out,”

or do we say (in real life),

“Hang on, guys,” she said opening the back door. “It’s cold out there.”

I think a LOT about how my characters live and function in their world, probably more than I think about anyone reading my books. 

A lot of this hinges on the “Show don’t tell” philosophy. I’ve been aware of that since college. I remember it used to describe the way Hemingway wrote as the quality that set him apart from other writers and disturbed readers back in the day. Godnose he’s no Dickens. He wrote non-action narrative like this (from A Movable Feast):

I remember reading this book years ago and thinking it was fantastic. I still think so, but not for this “show don’t tell” thing, but because of Hemingway’s yearning nostalgia and the innumerable cafe au laits

A show-don’t-tell instruction website gives this example:

Telling: When they embraced she could tell he had been smoking and was scared.

Showing: When she wrapped her arms around him, the sweet staleness of tobacco enveloped her, and he was shivering.

I don’t think these two little passages say the same thing. How would I write it? I decided to give it a shot. 

His jacket stank of cigarette smoke. She stepped back from their embrace, frightened. “Where have you been?”

Anyway, the first example is grammatically confusing. Who’s scared? She or he? I thought she was scared, but reading it again it seemed it could have been either of them. 

I realized that I’m not sure about this “show don’t tell” stuff or what it actually means any more. It’s far more “Dickensian” now than in Hemingway’s fiction which is very spare and leaves a lot to the reader. It’s like this, from “The Snows of Kilimanjaro:”

THE MARVELLOUS THING IS THAT IT’S painless,” he said. “That’s how you know when it starts.”

“Is it really?”

“Absolutely. I’m awfully sorry about the odor though. That must bother you.”

“Don’t! Please don’t.”

“Look at them,” he said. “Now is it sight or is it scent that brings them like that?”

The cot the man lay on was in the wide shade of a mimosa tree and as he looked out past the shade onto the glare of the plain there were three of the big birds squatted obscenely, while in the sky a dozen more sailed, making quick-moving shadows as they passed.

“I’m only talking,” he said. “It’s much easier if I talk. But I don’t want to bother you.”

“You know it doesn’t bother me,” she said. “It’s that I’ve gotten so very nervous not being able to do anything. I think we might make it as easy as we can until the plane comes.”

“Or until the plane doesn’t come.”

To me that’s showing, not telling and I like it. No one has a CLUE what’s going on with these people, who they are, where they are, what they look like. They are absolutely engrossed in the imperatives of their moment, as are living people. We don’t know the big birds are vultures. We don’t know squat, and why should we? It’s not us, not our lives, not our situation. Hemingway just opened a window on a random couple having a rather banal sounding conversation, but like conversations between couples in real life, it’s anything but banal.

As a reader, I like that kind of “here we are suddenly in the middle of someone’s real life” narrative. I also like Icelandic sagas which are all tell and poetry.

It’s been my struggle as a writer since the beginning, but I think I’ll persist

Because, fuck it. It keeps me off the streets. 

Here’s a song about persistence. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/16/rdp-sunday-persist/

Work in Progress

Apprentice

“Go get him, Brother Benedetto. He must be thirteen or fourteen by now. Older?”

“How am I to get him, Father?”

“Just go to San Zeno and tell them you need a bright boy to train as an apprentice. Maybe there will be six or seven boys to choose from. When was he born?”

“Fifteen years gone now.”

“It’s past time if you’re to teach him. Ask to see the boys who are the right age. For that matter, I am sure they keep records of where the children come from and when they came in.”

Brother Benedetto sighed. He wanted his son near him. He’d longed for that, the chance to teach his boy everything he knew, but now the moment was upon him, he was filled with doubt. It was strange enough he had a son and that son had been raised in the same place he had. “Life is a labyrinth,” he thought, again. 

“You’re not sure, Brother?”

“No, no, it’s all-right, Father. What if he’s no good? What if he’s simple-minded, has no interest?”

“He’s still your boy.”

“That’s so,” nodded Brother Benedetto. 

“Maybe he will not have a religious vocation. He’ll need a trade. There’s work for bad painters as well as good ones. Work for painters’ helpers. He will need a future.” 

“How do I start?”

“I’ll write a letter to the abbott at San Zeno and let them know you’re coming with my authorization. You have a big job here and any help is help, or am I wrong?”

“No, Father, you’re right. If the boy is nothing but a mule he can still carry things.”

Va bene.”

The Abbott sent the letter, and a week or so later they invited Brother Benedetto to come and meet the orphaned boys of appropriate age. There were three. One stood out to Brother Benedetto, an average sized boy with green eyes and black curls that dropped over his forehead. “The abbott was right,” he thought, his breast on fire. He’d never though to see those eyes again.

“That boy. What’s his name?”

“Michele. Came to us on the feast of San Michele. Come, my son.” Michele stepped forward. The other boys kept their heads bowed.

“How old are you, Michele?” asked Brother Benedetto.

“Fifteen next month,” he said. 

“Would you like to be a painter?”

Michele looked the older man in the eye for a moment, then dropped his gaze. Who was this man? Bringing him his dreams? “How?”

“Brother Benedetto is a painter, my son. He’s in search of an apprentice.”

“Yes. I would like to be a painter,” Michele replied. He almost whispered, but to his ears, his voice echoed in the empty corridor. 

“Can you draw?”

Michele’s face was red. He drew all the time. He drew everything. He sneaked out of the dormitory to watch artists painting on the street. He drew in charcoal on the pavement. He’d haunted the cathedral sanctuary watching the frescoes emerge from the plaster walls. He’d offered his help to the workmen who’d set him to carrying buckets of water, sand and plaster, cleaning tools. But how should he answer this man? It was prideful to say, “Yes.” Dishonest to say, “No.”

“He can draw,” said the monk, saving Michele from the embarrassment of answering. “You have chosen the right boy.”

“I know,” said Brother Benedetto softly, a catch in his voice. 

“Get your things, Michele. You’re going with Brother Benedetto. You will be his apprentice. You must follow his instructions faithfully, serve him well, learn his trade. In time you will join the Franciscans and serve the Lord as a painter.”

Michele looked at Brother Benedetto’s dark brown robe and cowl. “So be it,” he thought. “If that’s what it takes.” 

***

Fumbling around with a new story that is sometimes fun, sometimes difficult, but always exactly what I want to write. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/rdp-thursday-fumble/

Time and Tide

The Goliard novel I’ve begun is as fun to write as The Price wasn’t, at least so far. One of my struggles with The Price was tied to our times. The more I researched into what happened during the mid-18th century great migration to America, the more troubling it all was and the more I feared drifting into an irrelevant polemic about slanted history. 

Primary sources can be harsh, but they reveal worlds, and the commentary in our (often politicized) history books can be insipid. I’m one of the few people I know who doesn’t despise Christopher Columbus. He was a man of his time, and the times were awful. Maybe he was even better than average. I don’t know if it’s possible to write history without bias but boy, what a wonderful world it would be if that could happen.

History is messy, messier than most of us realize until we are obliged to dig into it. I think that’s how it should be. Our progenitors did not mean for us to live in their world but in our own. They consistently hoped our time would be better than theirs. Even I, looking back at the little bit of history I’ve lived through, hope many of those things don’t return. The future will have its own troubles without carrying the old ones forward with them. (Hey, coterie of anti-vaxers? I’m talking to you. Vaccinate your kids, for the love of god.)

Anyhoo, I don’t where this blog post is going, so… 


https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/12/rdp-wednesday-coterie/

Love Songs

This is the first time in decades I don’t have a story to work on. What I thought might be a good idea is looking more and more doubtful. I’ve been reading about and in the work of the Goliards and it’s — they — are notable for being priests who wrote love songs. 

Whoop-dee-do. And songs about drinking, the corruption of the church, the absurdity of doctrine, and poverty. But mostly love songs. Sometimes naughty love, but love. And if you’re a priest, is there any other kind of love? Maybe these are not my people. 

Sixty-two years ago when some crooner was crooning on the radio in the family kitchen, I asked my dad, “Why do they sing about love all the time?”

My dad gave me a startled look, like, “She’s only four, WTF?” then said, “Because love is the greatest thing in the world.”

“Why?”

“Helen, can I have a little more coffee?” 

Way to change the subject, Dad.

I’m not convinced that romantic love is the greatest thing in the world. There are lots of other really great things like the range, horses named Old Paint, exploration, adventure, art, and nature. It’s true there are a few anti-love songs, but love is still the main subject.  

One of the things I’ve always liked about Punk Rock is that while there are love songs, there are songs about other things. The more hard-core the Punk, the less likely there is to be a love song. It’s awesome. Often, when a Punk band sings about love, it’s not sappy love but something else. The Dead Kennedys’ best love song is “Too Drunk to Fuck.” Sorry, but there it is. Realistic, funny and ironic. 

I’ve been listening to The Pretenders a lot lately, and Chrissie Hynde has a few sappy love songs, but her love songs are mostly not. 

“I wanna do it, do it on the pavement.” That is not sappy.

Anyhoo…. Since I find all this love song stuff de-inspiring, I don’t know what’s up next. I’m not anti-love or bitter on the subject. I congratulate — and have deep respect for —  all of you who found your great love and are busy living happily ever after. That just isn’t my story. 

But why?

The model in front of me growing up wasn’t particularly happy, that’s one thing, probably, then I never wanted kids. I wanted adventure. For a while I thought a boyfriend or husband would also want adventure, and we’d go off into the world adventuring, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. Even the most adventurous men I knew longed for wife and family, the ties that guys like in the movie K2 struggle against. Except one. He wanted adventure more than wife and family, and I think his romantic life has gone pretty much like mine. There is a kind of love between us, maybe a shared love of mountains, adventure and words, mutual esteem. Anyway, I treasure it, maybe partly because it’s love that doesn’t show up in love songs. 

In any case, I wonder what the protagonist will do so that I can write his story? I see him influenced by Goliard love songs, in a moment of heated passion impregnating a girl, then facing the betrayal of romance, thrown out of his monastery, sent wandering over the Alps to teach Martin to paint and then in his own Paul on the Road to Damascus moment realizing there is no better lover than art and returning to the monastery, seeing it as his best bet for a life as an artist. Maybe he’ll go that way. 

Ars longa, labilis est dilectio

Writer vs. Reader

Truman Capote 1981 Robert Mapplethorpe 1946-1989 ARTIST ROOMS Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d’Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/AR00212

Here’s the deal, readers. 

I have read. I have a fucking masters in literature. And before that? A bachelor’s in literature. I’ve written hundreds of papers about literature, a masters thesis, papers for academic conferences and I’ve taught literature. I don’t have a PhD in literature because, honestly, at that point it’s literary criticism and I don’t see the point of that. Enough was enough for the MA and it would have cost me $28k and three years of my life to pursue something that wouldn’t have improved my chances to get a good job.

There’s a moment in life when that is the important consideration. 

In 1981 a friend gave me a book of Chinese poetry and inscribed it saying, “Maybe this is something you HAVEN’T read.” And I hadn’t, but I did and found the most informative poem of my life. It’s “Don’t Go Out of that Door” by Li ho.

In the article I linked to my earlier post today is a pretty funny statement. I’ll quote it here.

Jean-Claude Carrière: There are books on our shelves we haven’t read and doubtless never will, that each of us has probably put to one side in the belief that we will read them later on, perhaps even in another life. The terrible grief of the dying as they realise their last hour is upon them and they still haven’t read Proust.”

I’ve read Proust. Heaven help me, but I have. That’s WHY I found Carriére’s statement so funny. How did I find Proust? University library, oh, you mean, well honestly, how would you know you died? Proust’s prose is as slow as death.

Stream of tedium.

There are important questions writers need to answer about themselves that no reader has to think about, most important (to me) is, “Is this the way I WANT to write?” You have to read your own work with the eyes of a WRITER to answer that question. 

There was a day, a moment, when that hit home. I was on a blind date some 10 years ago. I had driven to the Panikin in La Jolla to meet a man with whom I’d corresponded online (yes, a dating site, OKC). I took a draft of Martin of Gfenn with me. Unfortunately for him? For both of us? He was late. By the time he arrived, I was immersed in my manuscript and sickened by it. Every irrelevant motion of Martin’s life was expounded in laborious detail, almost “Martin turned right, and walked down the corridor putting one foot in front of the other, left right left right left right left right left right until he reached the refectory at which point he stopped putting one foot in front of the other and stood still thinking about whether he should put his right or his left foot over the threshold.”

Almost like that. The book (at that time) was 520 manuscript pages long. Once I’d read it like a writer, it was about half that. 

Seriously. Do you, as a reader, need to realize anything like that in YOUR writing and go, “Fuck, this is so bad, I want to die”? You might react to a book that way, but it won’t be YOUR book.

I never had to think that thought back when I was a reader. I was unaware that writers make choices about who they are in a paragraph or sentence or (yeah, sometimes it’s this small) word. Why? Oh baby, let me tell you. 

Words have sounds and implications. They have the power to resound, imply, and allude. A word can destroy a sentence and, like falling dominoes, take the paragraph with it.

I was facing a really poorly written novel (mine) with a good story and what could I do about it?

I’d written it not as a writer, but as a reader thinking of the story. A writer has to think about conveying the story so the reader can surrender, not noticing the conveyance, feeling only that the world in which he or she momentarily exists is real. A writer has to provide an experience. The reader has to be able to enter the words, the sentences, the paragraphs and forget they’re there.

It was at that moment — on that blind date — that I became a writer not a reader. As for the date, it went like this.

“What’s that?”
“My novel. It’s so bad. I don’t know what to do.”
“Do you want a coffee?”
“I think I have to go home.”

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the inner music that words make.”

Truman Capote


Luckily, I found a teacher — or he came to me in my sleep. I dreamed of Truman Capote and he told me I was a good writer. I wasn’t a good writer. I was shit. I didn’t know what to do, but here was Capote appearing repeatedly in my dreams and here I was. 

I read everything Capote wrote and I read it not as a reader, but as a writer. ❤

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/rdp-wednesday-brilliance/

“I’m a Writer, Not a Reader”

The phrase didn’t originate with me. It’s Umberto Eco in a book I haven’t read (and won’t). Reviewed in The Guardian.

“When people ask whether I’ve read this or that book, I’ve found that a safe answer is, ‘You know, I don’t read, I write.’ That shuts them up.” 

I am in a place where I have to read in order to write. I have to read a lot and some of it is good, interesting, wonderful. I like the subject matter. Reading all this will open a door to a shadow world I’ve long wondered about. 

Once I was a reader. I read voraciously (as do a lot of people with blogs here on WordPress). I think that changed because of two things. One, reading became research. A historical novel is a long research paper, hopefully more interesting, but without the research a story is just a bunch of modern people in costumes. That’s not what I want to write.

For example, I wrote the first draft of Martin of Gfenn without knowing that there was no paper in Northern Europe during his lifetime (13th century). Martin is a fresco painter, and I had him drawing cartoons on sheets of paper. That would have been like the wristwatch on the galley slave in Ben Hur or whatever. 

But research is a directed search for answers; it’s not sitting in a comfy chair enjoying a story unfolding. It’s a scavenger hunt through a labyrinth.

The other factor is reading hundreds, nay, thousands, nay, tens of thousands of student papers and having to grade them. That can sure take the bloom off the rose, so to speak. I ultimately devised rubrics for every single project so that I was not obliged to mark the same thing over and over and over again. Students like these rubrics because they made the whole thing of writing an essay less like lacing a boot inside a black bag in a dark room. 

Over the past decade there have been a few writers whose brilliance has been able to lure me from my “I hate reading” cave. The most notable is Jane Gardam. Her stories are good and her writing is brilliant, clean, clear humorous and fun to read, demonstrating knowledge of and sympathy for people. 

I have also enjoyed several Icelandic Sagas and have one on my table for the very cold winter days that will come. They, too, are fun to read, clean writing, lots of action, some challenging moral questions, great descriptions of scenery and believable characters. My favorite remains Njal’s Saga. It was a huge thrill to me to be in Iceland and see the very place where Njal’s problems started, the remains of the Althing at Thingvellir, all this with an understanding of how law had failed Njal. It was great, even though I was in a lot of pain. Njal’s story was the great pull that took me to Iceland. 

I think that’s what good stories do — transport you to a different world. OK, late spring in Iceland was a saga of its own, but I was able to reach a profound understanding of why there were so many sagas written. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/28/rdp-wednesday-brilliance/

Bad Dream?

This morning I dreamed I was staying with some people in a huge house. It was a family, a couple of grown sons (one was a teacher), several daughters. At one point I lost my laptop. From then on, the dream was about retracing my steps. 

There is nothing more labyrinthine than a dream with stuff changing constantly. Dream rooms that had been empty were full of sleeping people. The classroom where the one brother taught — and where I was sure I’d left my laptop — had become the brother’s bedroom, but there were student desks from the 40s in there and people waiting for a lesson. 

I never found my laptop. I knew I could buy a new one, but that didn’t answer the problem, really. In the dream I asked myself, “What does my lap top mean to me that I can’t just buy another one? I’ve lost them before — my favorite one of all time crashed, and I simply replaced it — what’s the story morning glory?” 

Self-analysis in dreams is even more labyrinthine than in real life. The women in the dream kind of sort of helped me look for it, but not really. They couldn’t see what the big deal was. I thought, “Well, you’re rich. I’m not,” but  even in the dream that didn’t ring true. They WERE rich, but I could still manage to replace my laptop.

Seemed like a good time to get up, but for a while I kept searching. Bear’s bark outside my bedroom door got me up. 

The little book I just finished has existed in various forms for forty years. I no longer have one of the typed manuscripts, but I have one printed out on a dot-matrix printer. I remember back in the 80s when my neighbor (who loaned me his Mac while he was traveling) was attempting to explain to me why a computer was better than a typewriter. He said, “You don’t have to carry everything around in your head.”

At the time I was writing a book about Pearl Buck and it required a lot of research. Threads of the work of Chinese writers who were her contemporaries had to be connected to her, her own words about these writers, her reading (in Chinese) of the old, great Chinese novels and her comments — it was immense. I had (still have 🙂 ) boxes of notecards. One was a bibliography and the other quotations typed, cited and glued to the notecards so I could find them when I needed them. 

“You wouldn’t have to remember all this. The computer would do that for you.” He made his argument as vigorously as if he were selling for Apple. 

So were our brains different when we DID carry all this around in them? Were we smarter? Certainly we’d panic less in dreams that involved losing our laptops. And now I’m dreaming that losing my laptop is cataclysmic.

Anyway, I’ll spend some time today backing stuff up. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/rdp-monday-vigorous/

For the Birds

When I’m not working on a novel, I have had a project, a piece of “creative nonfiction” though when I started it in 1978 or so I don’t think the term existed. It’s autobiographical fiction or fictionalized autobiography or autobiography about learning to writer fiction. Maybe it — like one of the protagonists — defies labels. 

It’s a strange piece. The speaker (it’s a first person story) is at that moment in life where she doesn’t know what to do, who she is. She has a lot of abilities but no direction. She’s poised for flight but doesn’t know if she has wings.

So I ended up titling it “Fledging.” It’s had several titles in its long evolution, but from this promontory, looking at it from the distance of forty years and knowing how the stories turned out, I can see what she was doing. And writing this book was part of her attempt to take wing. Who and what was she? Painter? Writer? World-traveler? Wife? No clue…

I don’t think it’ll ever be for sale. Maybe it’s just a thing I had to finish for myself. It’s got lots of bad writing — which makes sense because it’s about a person learning to write and only starting to discover her voice and understand the importance of refining skills.

I wrote it with a typewriter, retyped it innumerable times on my original Smith/Corona and then on my Smith/Corona correcting typewriter (replete with a small memory card), retyped it on my Amiga and then again on my Mac Classic and again on my MacBook Pro. This one? The one before? The one before that? I don’t know. 

Anyway, I love it and I’m proud of it — and her. That girl survived, endured and kept writing thanks to her plasticity and resilience. If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here in Heaven on this gorgeous blue and powdered-sugar snow day. 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/25/rdp-sunday-plastic/

“Schneeballs?”

image_562777025843467

Cold morning out here in the real west (no surprise). I’m sad that one cup of coffee is (for good reasons, not the least of which the second doesn’t taste that good) the limit. That one cup is so good…

The chilly draft in my 90 year old house swirls around my wool-socked feet. I have two manuscripts on the table here, and one has been printed into a book. The best part of that is that I spelled the faux title of my own novel wrong. Never mind it’s the name of members of my own family. I’m an endless sense of amusement and frustration to myself.

The thing of printing a manuscript into a book is that it’s very helpful to me in the proofreading process. This isn’t a legit book in terms of formatting and other stuff, but it’s book-like.

It’s been edited professionally, something I wish I had been wise enough to do for Martin of Gfenn. Every subsequent book has had that advantage and it’s major. There’s also the thing (with a self-published book) that each time you need to deal with the manuscript you risk typos. At this point with Martin of Gfenn the typos are mostly spacing problems, still, who wants that?

In any case, yesterday when the book-like-thing arrived I thumbed through it and realized (for the first time) that I like the story. I saw what I have done — I have written a love story that’s not smarmy and predictable. I have created a complex female protagonist with integrity, passion, and genuine feelings. My male protagonist (antagonist?) never overcomes his flaws or sees them; he’s consistently himself and worthy of Aescylus or some guy like that.

When I started this book, I fought it all the way. I didn’t want to write about a woman, and there was nothing about the male hero that I liked.

One thing that happens when a person writes fiction is they soon discover that the people in the stories are not “their creations” at all but the emerge all on their own and demand to be themselves.

But they’re pretty loose about how you spell their names…

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/rdp-thursday-loose/