31 July 2007

Misfts Misalign

I'm up at the Misfits' blog today talking about my characters. Here's a sneak peek...

My characters were none too pleased with me. Marnie, after letting loose a string of insults, which were a mixture of kindergarten knocks, street-savvy slaps, and Shakespearean slams, gave me the cold shoulder, making a show of pouring a single glass of Shiraz.

30 July 2007

Three Completely Unrelated Thoughts

Well, in some way, they are related, but to take you to the depths of my thought synapsis would be more frightening than a journey through Pan's Labyrinth.
1. I finally, finally finished a project that consumed mucho time, and I learned one major thing: stupidity covers a lot of brilliance.
2. Lisa Samson has some great advice for letting our Christ-light shine, so hop, skip, or jump over to here.
3. I have been remiss with some great Misfit news. Chris (not my husband but a crit partner) has had his story "Moonshot" pubbed at DKA. It took first place in their 2007 Fiction Contest. Yay, Chris! (I would highly recommend reading it. Chris has a snarky voice and a good eye for plot.)

27 July 2007

Unreview - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This is an unreview because all I want to do, really, is say for the record that I'm done (finally - don't you hate when life gets in the way of fantasy?) and I liked it and I no longer need to avoid half the world because someone might give away the ending, which I'm not going to do. While Rowling's prose isn't an Anne Tyler melody, the story is powerful. At one point, I found myself crying so hard I couldn't read the words on the page (nobody mistook me for a Stoic).
And now sadness that it is finished (allusion purposeful).

26 July 2007

Writing Meme

D'Ann tagged me. I haven't done one of these in a while.

1. What's the one book or writing project you haven't yet written but still hope to?

A novel about a couple who meet in Africa on missions projects and impulsively get married. Meanwhile (back at the ranch), an African woman (who becomes close to the new bride) struggling to survive. Okay, so I confess, I don't know the actual story, but someday I want to write about these characters. Story to follow...

2. If you had one entire day in which to do nothing but read, what book would you start with?

So hard to pick because how can I communicate who I am based on this one question? I'd start with the latest Harry Potter since that is the book I'm in the middle of right now. Then I'd read Jodi Piccoult's Nineteen Minutes, because that is the book I interrupted to read HP. Then I'd get back to From Homer to Harry Potter, my nonfiction read, which often gets put down for a fiction. Then I'd pick up (because it's a really long day, of course), Anna Karenina from my shelves because it's been gathering dust for too long eyeing me, sometimes winking and fluttering her lashes.

3. What was your first writing "instrument" (besides pen and paper)?

If journals don't count, then a computer, first a hand-me-down desktop, then my laptop.

4. What's your best guess as to how many books you read in a month?

Some people keep lists. Not me. I don't know how many I read. 4? 5? Maybe 6? Depends on the month and the life around the month.

5. What's your favorite writing "machine" you've ever owned?

I guess my laptop right now OR really, my Nancy Drew notepad that goes everywhere with me. It houses some fun observations (and hugs walls as it creeps up steps).

6. Think historical fiction: what's your favorite time period in which to read? (And if you don't read historical fiction--shame on you.)

Does Jane Austen count since when she wrote she was contemporary? Or Dickens. Pirates. Okay, so I haven't read anything pirate-y yet - oh, that's not true! I read Treasure Island, and we'll count Robinson Crusoe because I want to though it has nothing to do with pirates. I love pirates and the mafia, so I need to read more pirate-y and mafia-y (the 1920s for the mafia would be the most romantic, methinks).

7. What's the one book you remember most clearly from your youth (childhood or teens)?

50 Jeanne pts to the first person who guesses this. Seriously, folks, if you can't guess this, you've never actually been to my blog.

I tag all the Misfits: Ang, Chris, Jen, Jenny, Mich, and Mike

25 July 2007

Misfits Misalign

I'm up at the Misfits today talking about the whys and wherefores of writing.

23 July 2007

Fringe Benefits

I’ve been told that the “unpublished” genres are international fiction and fantasy. Huh? Granted, with CBA, the books I read come from word-of-mouth recommendations (aka the Oprah way), then I order them on Amazon. I don’t wander around LifeWay or Mardel’s like I do Barnes and Noble, Borders, or Half-Price Bookstore, mesmerized, entering in wonderment as if transported to a magical land and leaving hours later.
But browsing the ABA world, I find bestseller shelves flooded with memoirs of other countries and novels set in Africa and India and Latin America. And consider other literature sources, magazines like Vanity Fair and Time dedicating an issue to Africa and international films getting more visibility and becoming more mainstream, having their own Oscar categories as well as infiltrating mainstream categories (i.e. Volver).
More and more care about what goes on in other countries as the globe shrinks. As Christians who know that each of us have been created by God and that every tongue, every language, every nation, will confess Christ as Lord, shouldn’t we care even more about the world, our neighbors?
Then there’s fantasy. So why, if it is true that fantasy does not sell, does Tom Shippey say (as quoted in From Homer to Harry Potter, an excellent book worthy to be read by writers, especially those of the fantasy bent, readers, and Christians, and eventually I’ll get a review of it up here), “The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic”? (I believe he includes scifi and horror in the “fantastic” category.) Some Christians have a hard time with the magic and sorcery, and I want to respect that. On the other hand, as Homer to HP says, myth is the “embodiment of truth.” They want to get back to the true meaning of myth, not as something false, but as stories that express the identity of a people and their worldview (cf. C.S. Lewis’ The Discarded Image, another must-read, by the way). The gospels, then, are myth. But I digress. I’ve talked about all this before. And Mike Duran also had a lovely post about it as well. Back to a semi-point (does anyone have a pencil sharpener, preferably a metal one attached to a wall that gives your hand blisters when you turn the crank or crank the turn and only occasionally works and makes a horribly annoying sound so that the entire class stares you down as you sharpen your pencil in the middle of a math examine?), with the groundwork laid by Tolkien, Lewis, and Sayers, with the advantage that fantasy has to address real issues in a way that get lost in contemporary, “real” literature, with the resemblance of the gospels to fantasy with the presence of the supernatural invading the natural, why is fantasy in the CBA world off the beaten path?
Truth is, if I could, I would write fantasy. But I can’t. And that’s okay because I love what I write, contemporary women’s fiction with a twist of ginger (a.k.a. sarcasm—don’t ask me why the one represents the other, but it does to me). Sometimes these stories are set in other countries. After all, my master’s emphasized cross-cultural studies and my heart is more often elsewhere other than the States. Sometimes they occur right here in my neighborhood or my grandmother’s kitchen.
All that being said, seriously, can someone explain to me why these two categories are the Genres-That-Must-Not-Be-Named? (That sounded rough, but I am honestly asking the question.)

And then there are those who care

Robin, being someone who actually cares, sent me a treat - some yummy mint candies in a fun mini-hat box and a lovely note. Thank you, sweet friend!

And have a nice day

Once a month we receive a community magazine. It's mostly a who's who of our suburb and a socialite calender. Nothing special. But occasionally something will strike me as funny, and if nothing else, it's great writing fodder (talk about your quirks). This month, I lit upon an article critiquing greetings. The writer tells a common anecdote. She steps into Starbucks and asks the barista, "How are you?" "Tired." Ooh! I suck air through my teeth ready for a good tirade on that answer, on how our stock answer "tired" is bad because we've made busyness our king and we need to learn to stop and smell the roses.
Not so much.
She writes, "They don't understand that it's merely a greeting and not really a question."
In other words, I don't care a flying leap about how you are. In fact the last thing I want to know when I ask, "How are you?" is how you are. Now this is exactly the sort of reputation I would hope a writer would cultivate in the States, in my neighborhood. Uh-huh.
"I resisted the urge to scold [the barista] for staying up so late, paid for my latte, and, after wishing her a good day, left." She claims that this greeting is "simply my attempt at being friendly." How friendly can it be when your response to anything other than "fine" is irritation?
She ends by saying, "I'm afraid my attitutde is a bit curmudgeon-ish. [Ya think?] Perhaps I'm the one who is out of step, and I need to come up with a new greeting." Like "Don't mess with Texas" or something equally as "friendly."

20 July 2007

Review—Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler

Rebecca Davitch discovers that she has become the wrong person in the wrong life. How did a bookish introvert become a party planner? Step-mother of three, biological mother of one, and a widow, at 53, Rebecca hits her mid-life crisis. Once an only child engaged-to-be-engaged to a quiet and organized college student, Rebecca is now the matriarch of a half-crazy family, holding them together despite their squabbles. Once a “serene and dignified young woman,” her role in the family forces her to act with a jollity and borderline silliness that ill-becomes who she should have been.

This book is about second chances and belonging, which, aside from Tyler’s ability to create loveable yet dysfunctional characters that make you want to hug them and slap them, made me love the book. If you’ve ever wondered about that fork-in-the-road decision, if you’ve ever thought about starting over, if you’ve ever considered trying again at love or questioned your place in your family, you’ll understand Rebecca. As typical with Anne Tyler, it’s the little quirky things about the characters, flawlessly consistent throughout the book and seemingly unbelievable, that make the characters real. And her prose flows like the gurgling brook that Rebecca is drawn to. As a writer, I must know, how does her prose read naturally and beautifully and poetic while a book I attempted before this one jolted and coughed like a car on its final outing? I guess I’ll have to keep reading to figure this one out.

19 July 2007

The Eggman

"I am the walrus," I said to my sister-in-law. My nephew chewed on his walrus toy.
"Huh?" Blank look.
I added, "Goo goo g'joob."
"Are you talking in a different language?" She turned to her husband. "She's talking in code."
Husband looked at me ready to interpret. I repeated and was rewarded with another blank stare.
What has happened to this country's music education where a reference to one of the greatest rock bands, a band that changed the face of popular music, that experimented, that was one of the few rock/pop/whatever bands that actually had good musicians, reaps confusion? I won't even go into mispronunciations of Wagner and misappropriation of tunes calling a Rachmaninoff a Mozart piece (isn't all classical music either Beethoven or Mozart?) or believing the cell phone company to have composed the Queen of the Night's aria. A whole generation who had hamsters for mothers and fathers that smelt of elderberries.
By the way, this came out of a family reunion of sorts from this past weekend. Laughs, squabbles, stress, and fun. A typical family outing.
Now go away or I will taunt you a second time.

18 July 2007

I'm up at the Misfits blog today, a short story of sorts like a still-life of fruits (I am a little fruity, after all)

13 July 2007

My theme song this year

As I've mentioned before, I have a running soundtrack of my life. This is this year's theme song. It's the last year of my life that it can be.
(Notice how footloose and fancy free I'm getting. I set up all this youtube just for you guys.)

12 July 2007

The Gift That Never Was

My sweet blogging friend, Pam, sent me wine and chocolate, my two favorite things, just for being persistent (and runner-up) in a competition she had. Unfortunately, FedEx attempted to deliver the box while I was at the hospital with my dad. I left notes with my signature - unacceptable. They needed a sig in person. I stalled going back to the hospital. Missed them. I left a note asking if my neighbor could sign for it when they said they'd try one more time. I don't think they tried one more time because they didn't leave a "final attempt" note. I let them know I'd be gone a week, could they hold it? I get back, and it returned to sender. A curse on FedEx's house.
So, thanks, Pam, for my gift. Next time I drink wine, I'll toast to you. Next time I eat chocolate, I'll pretend it was from you.

10 July 2007

Misfits Misalign!

I'm posting today at the Misfit blog. If you scroll down to my bio, you might even find a picture of my face. You might.

09 July 2007

That Toddling Town

Chicago, Chicago, my hometown.

Okay, so it's not, but it should be. Next to Philly and Prague and Barcelona, my favorite city with brown papered packages tied up with string. I saw the greatest fireworks of my life off the Navy Pier that lit up the sky like high noon shootout. I ate pizza with more cheese than Monty Python. And hot dogs with a salad on top (it's healthy, you know). I lunched in Chinatown and Greektown, where they speak Chinese and Greek respectively (and respectably). I got dizzy looking up at the Sear's Tower. I marched (more like ran) on Michigan street with thousands of others trying to catch our train after the aforementioned fireworks. I chatted and chatted and chatted some more with my best friend. I sang Broadway tunes on the Metra for an hour and a half, half-entertaining, half-scaring the other patrons.

And speaking of Broadway...

I saw Wicked! And loved it (Jennifer, this bud's for you...)

Musically, I have to admit it wasn't exactly innovative or all that creative. It stuck to the standard Broadway sound as defined by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

That being said, I can't help but lovin' my musical. The creative part was the book, and that was ubercreative. I cried, yes, and I laughed heartily out loud. I loved the development of Elphaba's character and the change in Glinda's. It was very postmodern in its look at a story from a different perspective. I loved the examination of wickedness: some people are born wicked, others have wicked thrust upon them. And the digging into motivations with truth being found in unlikely places and veiled by seemingly good sources. So much to dig into, but alas, I haven't the time. Just know that I recommend it, and that I'm going to go back and read Gregory Maguire's other books, such as The Ugly Stepsister and Son of a Witch.

And I can't forget the Art Institute where I got to see one of my favorite paintings, Chagall's White Crucifixion as well as other greats. Unfortunately, the area with Rembrandt was closed. (Too bad, because my teeth could use the whitening.)

I lost the blues in Chicago. That toddling town.

04 July 2007

Misfits Misalign!

It's official, folks, the Misfit's blog is up. For those of you who don't know, the Misfits are a group of writers with whom I am associated (although I'll deny that in a court of law). I love them dearly for who God created them to be, which happens to include being really great writers. Seriously, I feel like Dick and Jane around them. Today is our Declaration of Independence. (You'll have to scroll down a bit to see it.) On a regular basis, you'll find writing on writing and pretty much everything in life (and out of life) since it all relates to the big W. Warning: these people are funny, so expect some coffee-spewing.
P.S. If you'd like to know about the creation of our name, see here.