Baby I Love Your Way

So, it’s Friday, and $562 later (not including the cost of the appointment itself) at the optometrist’s later, I am home. But I have my first new glasses in three years on order, and a year’s supply of contact lenses, which I am trying to get better about wearing more regularly. Part of the resignation to being old and not going to the gym regularly (if at all) anymore was the loss of contact lenses as an option years ago…I still don’t like the progressive lenses, but I am getting used to them, and I am very hopeful my vanity is going to kick in and get me off my ass.

I mean, if I don’t have to wear my glasses…

Don’t hold your breath.

So, here’s an insight into how my brain and my memory works. For years, I’ve been trying to remember the name and author of a book I read during a horror phase in the 1980’s–during that time I fantasized of being a horror novelist. When I worked at Bank of America, I didn’t have a car, and had to take the bus to and from work. I had to change busses at the Manchester Mall, going and coming, and on paydays I would, rather than catching the next bus, going into the mall, go to the B. Dalton and browse the books, and after getting a bag of books, I would eat in the food court–there was a place that had an amazing hamburger with grilled onions and bell peppers, but it wasn’t cheap and this was part of my payday treat for myself. (It was during this time period that I also went through a fantasy period; this was when I read the rest of The Shannara Chronicles and  The Belgariad) There was a horror novel that I read that has always stuck with me; when I moved to Houston from California I left most of my books behind, alas. For years I’ve been trying to remember the author’s name and the book’s title; it was set in rural New Jersey, the main characters were from New York and for some reason were spending the summer, independently of each other, in this small rural town. I remember there was a demon or a devil in a tree in the prologue which consumed someone; but there’s not much more I remember, except how brilliantly and vividly the author described things; there was a scene with the young woman working in a public library in Manhattan that was so vivid I could see the cracks in the paint and the plaster.

Today I was listening to Spotify and cued up The Best of New Order. When the song “Ceremony” came on I thought, that’s a great title for a horror short story or novella sand I was starting to reach for a pen when it hit me between the eyes, that novel set in rural New Jersey you’ve been trying to remember for twenty years was titled The Ceremonies.

A quick check on Google, and sure enough, the book is The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein.

And now I need to get a copy so I can reread it.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Welcome Back

I managed fourteen hundred words today, and then came up blank. I hate when that happens, but I just can’t force the creativity, you know? And those fourteen hundred words were hard to do, frankly. But I printed out the next chapter (Chapter Seven, to be exact) and will reread that at some point before getting to work on it, perhaps later, before Game of Thrones airs. I am planning on making this weird combination Swedish meatball/beef stroganoff dish for dinner (I’ve made both, and then one time when I was making Swedish meatballs later I realized I’d used the stroganoff recipe, but you know what? I also liked it. A lot. And I’ve made it that way ever since) later, and the kitchen is relatively clean already (and my goal is to leave it clean when I finish cooking; the worst thing is to go into my two long days at work with a messy kitchen, knowing it will most likely stay that way, getting worse, until Thursday–unless I somehow have more energy during the week than I usually do). I’ve filed stuff, cleaned the floors, paid the bills, made groceries, mailed things that needed to be mailed, and I wrote fourteen hundred words on the WIP today before running out of steam. Perhaps someday I’ll work my way back up to those halcyon days of three thousand or more I used to do routinely, but having a nice, relaxing weekend where I am actually able to get started writing and get caught up on things and have a clean home is a lovely way to start, don’t you think?

I certainly do.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones when it ends, and I doubt very seriously I will ever go back and watch the entire series again. It’s a tempting thought, to be honest, to devote several months to rewatching it in full, from episode one to its conclusion, in one massive binge and think about what I am watching, in terms of what I know is going to happen and watching for possible foreshadowing. I’ve always loved history, and that’s part of why I love Game of Thrones so much; it’s kind of like history where you don’t know how it all ends. When I was a kid I used to redraw maps of Europe and create countries and change the way wars ended and try to create my own Eurocentric history of the world; who knew that what I was actually doing wasn’t simply a waste of time but rather an incredibly creative experiment in world building via alternative history. Every so often, when I’ve been caught up in a science fiction or fantasy epic series, I wonder at the world building/universe building creativity of the author and think I could never do that. I’ve always wanted to, but never have; but perhaps that was simply a failing of my own. Of course I could do it, but whether I could do it well would be an entirely different thing.

I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy as I would like–I’ve always geared more towards crime and horror–but I’ve certainly read and enjoyed the Dune series, The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Shannara Chronicles, and Azimov’s science fiction novels about the robots and the empire and the Foundation, which wound up in the end all being one great big long series. There are writers out there now that I am looking forward to reading–I am not only diversifying the types of stories I read by race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but I am also trying to read more broadly across genres. Reading science fiction, fantasy, romance, even what is condescendingly called “chick lit”, and even some literary fiction will influence me and help make me a better writer in the long run. I read primarily for enjoyment, yes, but I also want to be a better writer, and reading different stories and different perspectives can only serve to make me a better writer.

I guess in reality when the show ends I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Game of Thrones; I still have the books to finish reading, and there will undoubtedly be spin-off shows–but seriously, is anyone at HBO listening? Your next big series should be Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. Her dragon books would be fantastic television, and for that matter so would Naomi Norvik’s (which I need to read; I started reading one a long time ago and was completely enthralled; something came up and I never finished and I never got back to it, and I’ve always regretted that).

I am also, in case you haven’t noticed, not only in that stage of writing where I never want to do it, have to force myself to do it, but when I finally do I am not happy with what I have done. I am completely convinced this book isn’t going to be what I want it to be, what I envisioned it to be, and its entirely due to my own various shortcomings as an author. It’s all part and parcel of the same neurosis, really; the endless cycle of Imposter Syndome, where you think you’ve somehow managed to con people for years that you can write but eventually the gig will be up and the marks you’ve been conning all along will finally wise up. This all too frequently translates I need to work today into what’s the point of writing? This book is shit, anyway, and no one is going to want to read it which very easily becomes let me get watch Youtube videos of Game of Thrones fan theories and listicles or highlights of exciting LSU football games or really hot well built muscular professional wrestlers or old music videos or clips from old episodes of All My Children–yes, those downward Youtube spirals can be quite frightening sometimes.

But I did make myself get those fourteen hundred words done today, even though I didn’t want to do it, even though I thought I should do three thousand, even though I currently think the words I wrote are crap and the chapter is crap and the character is two dimensional and I don’t know what I am doing, I FUCKING WROTE THOSE GODDAMNED WORDS TODAY.

And that’s fourteen hundred more words than I did yesterday, or Friday, or Thursday.

And I bet tomorrow I can do more than fourteen hundred.

Watch closely now.

What do I say to the God of Imposter Syndrome? NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT TODAY.

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Show and Tell

So, audiobooks and A Game of Thrones.

I am, of course, a huge fan of the HBO program Game of Thrones, based on George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice. 

As I explained to Paul when we started watching, “It’s like medieval history, only with magic and zombies and dragons.” The first season was incredible–I had not read the books–and I remember thinking, in the season finale, as Dany walked out of the smoking ashes of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre with baby dragons perched on her, my god, this entire season was simply set-up, before we get to the main story.

Little did I know what we were in for–although I liked, with the execution of Ned Stark, whom it seemed was the main character, the reality that anyone can die at any time–which of course increases the dramatic tension; if any character can die at any time, the stakes are much higher–and Paul and I have thrilled to the ups and downs and highs and lows. The show has done a wonderful job of weaving his story as well as forcing us, as viewers, to understand that, ultimately, life isn’t fair and good doesn’t always win over evil in the end.

I had been resistant to reading the books, primarily because they aren’t all written and published; I despise having to wait for the next book in a series, particularly when it’s very possible that by the time that book has come out you’ve lost the thread of the story and forgotten who is who with the characters (I’m looking at you, Stephen King and The Dark Tower); this epic series, though, is a bit different precisely because there’s a television show, which would make the remembering easier. But still…I hate waiting for another book. I did order a paperback set of the series books currently available, but when I saw how long they were and realized the time commitment that would be involved, I just didn’t think I could do it.

Flash forward to week before last, and my decision to give listening to Audiobooks a try on long car trips. As I may have mentioned before,  the concept of Audiobooks wasn’t something I was terribly keen on; I’ve always hated being read to, and I also had no idea how long audiobooks were and how long it would take to listen. But I did think, “I bet A Game of Thrones would be long enough to last the entire drive” and I set about looking for an audio book I could download. Nothing from the Public Library, and so finally, after trying out some other options, I finally went with the thirty-day free membership to Audible and downloaded A Game of Thrones…only to see that the recording lasted just over thirty-three hours. I also knew that if I really got into the story, I wouldn’t want to wait three days to finish listening, so I decided to go ahead and take my physical copy of the book with me, so I could finish reading it.

Which I did, in a lot less than the over twenty-one hours that was left on the Audiobook.

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“We should start back,” Garen urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

“Do the dead frighteb you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.

Garen did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?”

“Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.”

Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” he put in.

If you can remember back that far, the very first episode of the TV series opened with this exact scene; members of the Night’s Watch, in a frozen cold forest north of the wall, investigating…only to encounter the horror that is coming. The story then switches to the epic power struggle in the seven kingdoms of Westeros, primarily the set-up of the bad blood between two of the major houses: Stark and Lannister. The Starks are of course set up as the good guys; the Lannisters, with their deceit and money and incest, the bad. As I listened–and later, read–I found myself getting very caught up in the story, even though I knew most of it already; the book is more layered and obviously has more backstory and information than the television series. Also, as I read along, I was reminded of my original comment to Paul: its medieval history with magic and zombies and dragons.

I’ve always loved history; I’ve read a lot of historical fiction and I’ve read a lot of history. I mentioned before Maurice Druon’s The Accursed Kings series, recently reissued and marketed as the “inspiration for Game of Thrones!” , with introductions by Martin himself. (I took my new copy of The Iron King with me on the trip, and started reading it after I finished the Bibliomysteries Volume 2 and A Game of Thrones.) I’ve always wanted to write my own history, with countries and lords and ladies and so forth all invented in my fevered brain; primarily because I wanted to change the way some histories ended. (What if the Babington Plot succeeded and Elizabeth I was assassinated?, for one example) This is kind of what A Song of Fire and Ice is; and I am of course the perfect audience for this.

I’ve not read much fantasy fiction. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings, of course (who hasn’t, really?), and I read the first few books of the The Shannara Chronicles many years ago; I’ve also read a few volumes of David Eddings’ The Belgariad, and of course McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern (hello, Showtime? This series would be perfect for a television show). One of the common themes of all of these series, along with Martin’s, is a lesson we never heed: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. In each of these series, there was an enormous and great threat from the past that everyone has forgotten or dismisses as “legends”; but the threat is very real, the stories are true, and in the present day, the threat is reemerging and everyone has to remember how to fight it.

Another theme of A Song of Fire and Ice is also history, and politically, related: people will always put short term gain ahead of long term success; instant gratification, apparently, being far far more satisfying that careful and strategic planning; selfishness often leads to doom.

I am really looking forward to reading more of A Song of Fire and Ice.