Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Power of the Internet

Been away for awhile again.  Writing, don't you know.  And the business end has been giving me...well, the business end.  Hope your holidays have gone well, whoever you are.  Now for a few quick things:

--I recently described my writing process this way:

"I let the whole thing fester for awhile--unless it's just suddenly springs on me and I MUST write it down--and then I just write and write and look at whatever comes out. Sometimes I get a lot in a linear fashion; sometimes I get a lot of fragments; sometimes I get the beginning; sometimes the ending. Whatever comes, comes, and then I have to sort it all out. Lately I've been getting fragments and multiple POVs. Cursing was linear, and "Hide the Weird" was, too. A couple of other short stories were. But not too often these days. I often, but not always, try and get down the very beginning, the very end, and hopefully the very middle. Somewhere in all this, at the editing and re-re-re-re-re-editing stage, I fill out an outline of what I've got, to make sure it all makes sense, and to plug in any very obvious holes. By that time, it's been well paved, and I see what I've got, and then I edit again, finish, etc. No strict formula for writing for me. Just go get 'em."

While this is a very accurate description of my writing method, it strikes me as a little all over the place.  Is this typical?  If you're a writer, please comment or send me an email and let me know.  Thanks!

--I recently responded to one of my Goodreads threads, one that asks if there's any book you've been thinking of lately that you remember a bit, but some of it is fuzzy, and you can't remember the title, and you've been looking for the book awhile without success.  You respond to this thread, giving as much information as you can, and the hundreds?  thousands? of Goodreads members who are game try to figure the book out for you.  So I did this about a book I've been thinking about for years, one I read when I was maybe 11, and it made a big impression on me, but I couldn't remember the title at all.  I'd been looking for it at yard sales, library sales, indie bookstores, etc.  I stumped the experts at first, but then someone nailed it!  It's called "The Tunnel to Yesterday."  So I ordered it from Amazon, cost maybe $6 total to ship to my door (free delivery!) and I just finished reading it earlier today.

Now that's the power of the internet.

And, by the way, if I don't get another chance to say so, Happy New Year everybody!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shoveling with Lyn

While shoveling parts of the blizzard today, and viewing the snow-capped trees of my area, feeling the very blustery wind, and warming myself afterward because of the biting cold, I wondered why I liked those sensations while shoveling, and why they make me feel like writing so often when I'm done.  I think now that it's because these are not common sensations to me.  Though I am used to the cold, the snow, and its beautiful aftereffects, I don't see them all the time, or even consistently.  Snow, though common around here, isn't an everyday thing, even in the winter.

And then I thought of Lyn Fuchs, a writer friend of mine who has recently released his first book: Sacred Ground & Holy Water: Travel Tales of Enlightenment.  This tome contains seventeen separate pieces that catalog his travels.  From Africa to Central America to India, and currently in Mexico, I believe, Lyn has seen it all--and he's been there, too.  He has seen brilliant sunsets in places that are as hot as the sun; he has seen the rainforest; he has seen natives of tons of far-away lands.  He has, literally, been there and done that.  And he's written about it, now, too.  It's a good read, and, because it's broken down into 17 smaller pieces, it's comfortable reading for those of us who are too busy for our own good.  Read a section, let it take you to lands you've never been to, and people and things you've never seen, and then put it down and do whatever you've got to do.  Go back to it later, and repeat.  Let his writing take you where you couldn't imagine yourself to be.  Sit back and enjoy.  The sections are quick and easy to read; they are amusing in spots, abundantly detailed in others.  I offer below an interview with Lyn so you can get a feel for the writer. 


1. When did you decide to start writing?

My writing habit began when heavy snow sealed me for weeks into a log cabin, amidst the thick timber of Canada's craggy mountains. Life was forever changed. With nothing to do but observe minute details and reflect upon them, I spent silent solitary hours grasping for exact words to convey my experience to others, for when that connection would be restored. Meditations transformed into magazine articles. From eye to mind to pen, the journeys of my life were distilled into the stories that now make up my first book, to the very last one written on an isolated Mexican ranch under a fiery sunset and the influence of tequila. My spirit is within the pages too. If you aren't currently holed up at a snowy cabin or a sunny ranch but wish you were, I hope you'll let Sacred Ground & Holy Water take you there.

2. What is your genre and why did you decide to write a book in it?

One reviewer called Sacred Ground & Holy Water “the guy-friendly Eat, Pray, Love.” I have been kind of stubborn in my insistence that more writing should respect both yin and yang. I try to include both meaningful spiritual insight and raucous primal humor, a sensitivity to the beauty in the world and the guts to face its harsh realities. Sometimes this just offends everyone, but since I really believe that both male and female natures bring balance and value to life, I'm just going to keep doing it till somebody tells me to stop...and maybe even after that.

3. Were you worried about the word count of your work?

No, I tend to be very minimalist in my prose, so you won't find a lot of excess baggage.

4. Do you have any writing quirks and what are they?

The combination of the sacred and the irreverent, the romantic and the animalistic. I think God is secure enough to be funny and sexy. Not everyone agrees.

5. If you can describe your book in one word, what would it be and why?

Brash. You'll see.

6. How did you decide on the title and what does it mean?

Sacred Ground & Holy Water combines new and old world spirituality with reverence for nature, which are basic themes in this book.

7. What do you hope your readers will get out of reading your book?

Loyal readers of my magazine articles can rest assured that this work continues my quest for captivating wordcraft, inappropriate humor and profound observation. This book won't let you down. To those investing in my writing for the first time, I'm honored to have you aboard and confident these stories will make you laugh, ponder and probably get misty-eyed. Thanks for reading my stuff!

8. Tell us a little about your road to publication.

My name is Lyn, but I should be called Lyndiana Jones. I've survived enraged grizzlies, erupting volcanoes, Japanese sword fights and giant squid tentacles. I've been entrapped by FBI agents and held at gunpoint by renegade soldiers. I've sung with Bulgaria’s bluesmaster Vasko the Patch and met with Mexico’s Zapatista Army commander Marcos. I've been thrown out of forbidden temples in southern India and passed out in sweat lodges off the Alaskan coast. My navel has been inhabited by beetles and my genitals have been cursed by eunuchs. I've shared coffee with presidents, beer with pirates and goat guts with polygamists. I've contracted malaria, typhoid, salmonella and lovesickness around the world. It's hard to live that kind of life without gleaning a little wisdom, a wicked sense of humor, and some good stories to tell. Finding editors, publishers and readers willing to reap the benefits of my lunacy without the pain has not been that hard.

9. What advice can you give other aspiring authors out there?

If you are a travel writer (as I am) tell people the truth (as you perceive it) about what's “out there.” People get enough politically-corrected views of the world within their own society, they certainly don't need more of the same claiming to be dispatches from afar. We all need the wisdom that comes from other cultural perspectives, even though those perspectives are not sugar-coated for easy swallowing. If travel writing doesn't challenge the ideas of the reader's culture, did anybody really travel?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas--or Happy Holidays--Everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Guard on YouTube

I wrote a few more pages of the still-untitled WIP.  It's coming along very well; so well that it's almost time for me to fill out an outline.  But oh boy is this depressing!  I've been watching real clips of Auschwitz and other death camps on YouTube.  I found one picture (actually, I made a still of one of the images in one of the clips) of Hitler with some young guards behind him.  They're in their early 20s, I'd guess, and there are a couple of older guys with them.  They don't look nuts, but then again only the clinical ones ever do.  The picture is amazing because, when I saw it, I knew I had one of my POVs: the guard who sees what's going on.  I've already written his opening scenes.  And I saw, with him, a few of the other characters in his POV sections.  Interesting, scintillating, very dreadful.  I'll try to post a clip of that for a photo so you'll see what I mean.  If I do that, I want to do it right, with credit to the creators of the clip, etc.  This will be one of the more awful, yet morbidly fascinating, things I've ever written and researched.  I hope I can do the whole story justice.  I think this one will be a bit different than what others have seen and read.  If I can't do it well, without maudling and without using the atrocity as just another novel to write, then I won't do it at all.  I give you my word on this.

Okay, no clip's going to happen, so here's the link:  The guard for the POV is the one on Hitler's left on the photo at 2:05 into it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Novel and New Links

Photo: Boy Hiding from Hurricane Earl.  I think this picture is a perfect figurative match for the new novel.

The sites I follow are now to the right.  Please check 'em out.  They are interesting, informative, helpful and amusing, often all at the same time.  One of them is a friend's site; alas, though not famous (yet) in the publishing industry, she is a household name (especially in her own) regarding American-Nepali relationships.

I conducted an interview for my latest book and learned a few things.  Namely, you can't say to a concentration camp guard that he needs to NOT shoot the young boy who cannot sing or hold a note (because of puberty) because the boy's voice is deep and resonant enough that it is needed to balance the chorus as a whole.  Turns out, that doesn't make any sense, and won't hold true in reality.  Ah, I said, but would an unknowledgable guard know that?  Someone who's not familiar with how to run a chorus?  That doesn't matter, either, I'm told, because his lack of vocal control and his inability to hold a note or carry a tune would derail the entire chorus.  Ah, I said, with a thought, but couldn't the chorus teacher hide the kid in the chorus and make him mouth the words, and not sing?  Yes, she said.  Happens all the time.  But what happens when any guard at all, or another angry or jealous child, or any one of the camermen or reporters (this is a camp the Nazis used for good public relations, to show how "well" they were treating the Jews) asked the kid to sing?  That, I said, is why I'm asking you these questions.  That's the drama!  That's the pivotal scene of conflict!

What are you gonna do? she asked.

Well, hell, I don't know.  We're just going to have to find out.

An excerpt is to come.

I've been away for a bit: Christmas shopping; writing new novel (excerpt to come); editing pages of new novel; researching; wrapping up the job before the Christmas break; and getting overall run-down.  Yesterday's news was that I had a sinus infection--"Worst I've ever seen with you," my doctor said, which is bad, because he's seen me horrendous.  Also an infected sinus polyp (sorry T.) and he even gave me a pnuemonia shot, just in case.  That part of the arm still hurts.  So now I'm on an antibiotic (for 10 days) and a steroid (in decreasing dosages over 6 days).  I thought the latter would make me a slightly-crazed productive machine, with a little extra Grrrrr! like the last time I had to take a steroid, a few years ago.  Nope; it just wiped me out.  I'm exhausted and yet focused at the same time.  I can definitely breathe better, and my face isn't swollen and puffy anymore--except beneath my eyes, which is now worse--but I'm not a raging lunatic running for the urinal every ten minutes like I was a few years ago.  Not that you needed to know that, but there you are. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Writers Group and New Novel

Photo: Faed's Shakespeare and His Friends at the Mermaid Tavern

Hello to all the new faces at the writers group tonight!  Nice to meet you guys; good to see the familiar faces, too.  Some pockets of great writing in all the pieces covered tonight.  I look forward to seeing you guys next month.  Can you believe it'll be 2011?!?  Obama's been president for over 2 years, by the way.  Weird...

Speaking of writing, I'm happy as hell to announce that I've started the novel about the concentration camp, about how the prisoners must know a creative talent to make their captors look "good" to the world via forced and fake propaganda.  I found a comfy place to write--in a huge comfortable chair, which I can curl up in, in the living room with my better half--and I handwrote the first eight pages of this new novel.  Eight pages of my tiny handwriting is about 10 full pages of type.  Not too bad.  And I've never written fiction in front of someone before, in the same room as someone.  Harlan Coben once told me that he wrote in restaurants, in parks, etc. all the time, that he hardly ever wrote in his own office.  I can't imagine that, but it would be much more convenient if I could do that.  So I am going to try.

If I'm confident enough with this new writing, I'll place an excerpt here sometime soon.  My better half said tonight: "Wow!  You're really great at starting things!  But you're terrible at finishing them!!!"  (She's wanted me to finish Apocalypse before I started something new.  This advice will undoubtedly prove to be correct.)

So true, so true.  But I'm gettin' there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Just Do It

I told a friend of the new novella/novel idea expressed in the last blog, and he said, "Another one?"  Then I told my better half about the idea, and she said the exact same thing.  And so it's occurred to me that I've got too many things going on at the same time, and not too much time to write any of them.  Doubly frustrating!!!

Right now I'm working on:

1.  Novel idea expressed last time.
2.  The Gravediggers--one of the Novels in Progress that may form a trilogy with...
3.  Apocalypse--one of the Novels in Progress that takes place right at the end of a major world calamity and the end of WW3.  Most of it takes place in Kansas City, NYC, Rhode Island, and occasionally at a few other points throughout the world.  A couple of excerpts of this NIP are in blog entries below.  This is the NIP I'm probably furthest into, and will probably form a trilogy with The Gravediggers, and with...
4.  The novel about the plague(s) throughout history, one of which will happen in the timeline of Apocalypse and The Gravediggers, but that also took place in places like Eyam, England, a similar locale of which forms the backbone of this NIP.  See excerpts and research in blogs below.
5.  The Observer--a NIP that I really like, on which I've written many chapters, fragments, etc. over the years, but which I'm maybe still not ready to fully get into.  You can just feel that, you know?

So that's, what, 5 novels (or NIP)?  That's a lot.  But also there are...

6.  A long article on Pedro Martinez's peak brilliance, as compared to the peaks of others, in our time and before, using some stats (and common sense) that I have not found on, or in anything by Bill James, or in Baseball Digest, etc.  Maybe excerpts of #6 and #7 on my sports blog?
7.  A long series of articles on the Hall of Fame voting for MLB.  This series is unique because it focuses not on the fact that HOF players got into the Hall, but on the number of voters who felt that they didn't belong.  Large numbers of voters felt that Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, etc. did not belong in the Hall.  There has never been a 100% unanimous selection to the HOF.
8.  Research for short story and novel submissions--and the actual submissions themselves.
9.  Critiques for the pieces submitted by members of the three writers groups I belong to.
10.  My house, my better half, and the fact that I have an actual life, which also includes my career.

I need to set some sort of schedule.  I just finished my grad. class, thank God.  Now I have to pick one of the novels above, just go for it and finish a draft, while spending time with the submissions as well.

And the energy to do it all.  I heard that J.K. Rowling woke up at about 4 a.m. and wrote until 6 a.m. to get her kids to school, and then wrote until she had to pick them up, and then wrote after she put them to bed.  And then over and over again.  Good Lord, give me the strength!  How?!?  I guess...just do it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

An Open Door: The Nazis, A Piano Player and A Lot of What-Ifs

from Wikipedia article; picture taken July 2006.  Translation: Work Will Make You Free

Okay, so this is how my mind works.  There's definitely something wrong with me.  On one of my online book/reading/writing clubs is a mention of how one of the members was doing some work on a site.  So I go to that site, and there's a mention of how there's this documentary made about this woman who turned 107 in November--this woman is the oldest Nazi concentration camp survivor.  This 2-minute video blurb tells her story--I'll find the name of the documentary so you can watch it, or I'll at least post the link to the excerpt here.  (Okay, here it is.  The documentary is called Dancing Under the Gallows.  Watch this.)  But I digress, let me finish.  So the camp this woman was in was the one the Nazis used to show the rest of the world how "well" they were treating the Jews.  Things were a tiny bit better than the ones, for instance, in Schindler's List.  For example, women were not separated from their kids here, for the cameras.  The one mandatory thing about this camp was that you had to have some sort of artistic talent so that you could make the Nazis look good on camera.  If you couldn't do that, what good were you?  And if you had no useful purpose...You get the idea.

So this woman could play the piano.  Well.  Really well.  Her son was there, too, and he could sing.  She was 39 when put into this camp.  That's older than I am now.  I try to imagine what that must've been like, for someone a little older than me to be put in a camp and to literally play for her life.  I can't do it.  Can you imagine the stress?

That last question is what led to my idea, as dreadful as it is.  Remember that I'm the same guy who's writing a story about what it must've been like to live in Eyam, England as that town voted to quarantine itself, and then watch as 75% or more of its inhabitants died off.  What if, I thought, I lived there at that time, and dying, one by one, were each member of my family that lived in the Rose Cottage (see blog entry, picture and link below if you're interested).  And, oh, you're immune to the plague, but of course you don't know it, so you think you'll die any second as well.  So, anyway, this led me to think: What if you were brought to this concentration camp because you were the son of a woman who could play the piano, or something--and you couldn't?  And, you couldn't sing, or dance, or play any instrument at all.  But you had to learn.  And you tried.  But you couldn't play anything, or sing anything, to literally save your own life.  And the guards come closer, and closer...and you know if you can't sing or play...and you can't.  This other kid can; this other girl can sing; this other girl can dance.  You see each of them saved by their talent.  And you can't.  Until suddenly you're taken away, pushed roughly against a stone wall, a gun is pointed at your ear...and you sing.  Or you don't.  I haven't "seen" the ending yet.

And there's someone else there who's in charge of teaching the singing, or the dancing, or the playing of instruments.  And you, the teacher, know that if you can't teach this kid who can't sing or dance or play a damn thing...Do you lie for him?  Is anyone there such a good judge of singing that they can't tell?  Maybe you put the kid in a chorus full of people who can sing, and make the kid just mouth the words.  To hide him.  To save him.  Would a guard take him aside and make him sing on his own?  Could you, the teacher, tell the guard that it doesn't matter that he's off-key because he's got the perfect pitch to evenly complement the others in the chorus so that, as a whole, they sound better?  Is that even a valid thing to be able to say?  If not, does it matter?  Is it believable?  I know a chorus teacher at a high school I could ask these things to.  I suspect that there's a chorus teacher somewhere in this country who has done this to a kid who just can't sing a note, but, hey, the Christmas concert is tomorrow night, you know?

Whose POV for this story?  The teacher?  The kid who can't play anything and can't learn?  A guard's?  (Someone has to be able to see the chicanery happening.)  Third person omniscient?  If it's all of them, we're talking at least novella length now, and goodbye short story, hello another novel to work on.  (Don't get me wrong.  Having too many ideas is a VERY good problem to have.  I'm not complaining.)

So, this is how my mind works.  It is a scary place to be, I don't mind telling you.  But it's interesting!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dan Brown's Robert Langdon Trilogy (So Far)

Photo: Da Vinci's The Last Supper.  Go to the back of the class if you didn't know that.  But don't be ashamed if you didn't know that the real name is Cenacolo.  You didn't expect a guy who spoke Italian and Latin to name his painting in English, did you?  Did you?!?

A couple of comments on Dan Brown's Robert Langdon Trilogy:

Angels and Demons:

Maybe better than Code.  One of the better 1-2 punches in recent literary history.  I wish the public could've let Umberto Eco or Iain Pears do the same for the genre, but at least someone put the genre on the map.  I'll bet the better writers like Eco and Pears benefited from Brown's success.  Creepy bad guy, and Brown shows how pace and history/description (with the occasional hysterically false entertainment) can be done.  Again, like Code and Harry Potter, it made non-readers want to read.  That's good enough.

And the Annotated Angels and Demons is even more cool.  Buy it, and Google the interesting stuff.  It's like having Wikipedia in a cliffhanger book.  You know how you read some books for the recipes, or for things that have nothing to do with the story or writing?  Read this stuff for the interesting artwork, (occasionally correct) history, and real-life historical people, and then Wikipedia them or Google them.  I'm nerdy like that.

The Annotated Da Vinci Code:

Much cooler than just the novel alone.  Great pictures of artwork a must to see what Langdon was seeing.  Good page-turning pot-boiler that isn't meant to be more than it is.  Intelligently gripping, though not quite intellectual.  Nice Gnostic touches, though, and a little bit of common sense never hurts.  The intelligent reader will be able to sift through the material and separate nuggets of intelligent coolness from the hysterically false entertainment.  Made non-readers want to read, so what's not to like about that?  Cardboard characterization a la Crichton, but the best of its type.  Angels and Demons may be better.

I repeat the Wikipedia/Google comments here.

The Annotated Lost Symbol:

Disappointing sequel, but anything really was going to be after such mega-sales from the previous two.  Made me see D.C. in a different way, though I knew much of the history in the book already.  Didn't know about the creepy, Washington-as-God painting.  Googled it--really weird.  But the most disappointing thing about it is how Brown (aka Langdon) immediately backed down from the controversy Code made about the Church.  (SPOILER!)  Third-person POV says that Langdon was surprised at the public's occasional vitriol towards him because of the controversy "he" made by publishing "his" book about what happened, but, hey, c'mon, Brown wasn't TOTALLY off-base, and it helped make the Vatican at least a little culpable about the other, more real and modern-day problems it has.  It all made some people (outside Bible-belt America, apparently) doubt and take a step back--and actually think for a moment.  What's wrong with that?  Don't back away from that!  Be proud of it!  Weak "author intrusion" made an already-disappointing book worse.  Put a bad taste in my mouth about it.  ::sigh::

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Sports

Photo: Me, in Fenway Park during Picnic in the Park a couple of years ago, standing with the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies.

I've decided that I have enough to say about sports--mostly baseball--that a new blog became necessary, so here it is.  The post below is probably the only sports one you'll see here.  Go to My Sports Blog and read what I said about the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and its aftereffects, as well as some background info.  Please and thank you.

Boston Red Sox 2011

Photo: Me, in front of the Green Monster, during (see photo) a couple of years ago.

Okay, so this post is for my friends who've been talking non-stop about the trade.  I apologize to my readers who are not into baseball.  You can skip this one.

Well, so here it is.  Gonzalez is a Gold Glove at first, who transplants Youkilis, who was Gold Glove at first, and moves him to third, where he may actually be a little better.  So both corner positions are Gold Glovers, which you had last year before the injuries.  Under the plan beforehand, Martinez would've been your catcher/1B, and, though a good hitter, he is defensively challenged at both positions.  Youk and Gonzalez are clearly better at 1B defensively, and are both clearly better at the plate.  So Martinez is out of the picture at first.  Now, do you pay him 4 years for $50 million to be your full-time catcher and occasional DH?  In other words, do you pay him $12.5 million for the next four years to just catch for you, knowing that you'll have to give him about 30-35 games off, minimum, per year to save the wear and tear so he can be an effective hitter?  With his questionable defense and play calling, knowing he won't be at first or DH?  No way!  If you could put him at first on his days off from catching, maybe, but even that's a stretch.  I'd want to keep him, but not for that money.  And you clearly have to get Gonzalez if he's available, because he's a better hitter and defender than Martinez.  So, once you have all this figured out, Martinez is gone.  Fine.  A shame, and you get nothing now for Justin Masterson--who I was never a fan of anyway--but that's okay with me, too.

The biggest shame out of all this is that you lose Adrian Beltre and Casey Kelly, the latter of which I think can be a future ace of a staff.  But as Brian Rose and Carl Pavano (remember those guys?  the twin sure-things who both fizzled?  Pavano's still pitching, but he clearly stuck it to the Yanks) taught you, one definite is better than one maybe, so getting Gonzalez again is a no-brainer.  The other two prospects in the deal are also potential very good players, but that's why you draft such guys--to help your team on the field (Youk; Pedroia; Papelbon) or to help you in trades (Kelly and the other two).  Remember that Pavano and Rose got you Pedro Martinez.  That worked out pretty well, right?  And if Gonzalez can be 30/100 in San Diego, in a terrible hitters park, he can be 35/120, minimum, in Fenway, and the American League in general.

So then there's Adrian Beltre, who clearly has a perfect swing--down to one knee--at Fenway, and is a Gold Glove at 3rd base, too.  And a 35/120 guy himself.  (Youk is another 120 RBI guy, with fewer home runs.)  But where do you put him?  You have to keep Youk, who's a Fenway Favorite ("YOOOOOOOKKKK") like Ortiz, Pedroia and Papelbon are.  But he had nowhere to play now in the infield, and I'm a little worried at how he only has had monster years during contract years, and his 49 homeruns one year was due to a word that we will not mention here.  That's worrisome, though in his defense I think he enjoyed Fenway and would've put up great numbers and played great defense there every year.  I will miss him, and I think Kelly (whose autograph I have somewhere) and the other two prospects will turn out to be great players, but that's the business side of the game, which is just as important as the balls and strikes.

In short, you now have great hitters and Gold Gloves at every position in the infield (except at short, but Scutaro is unspectacularly solid), and you have Gold Gloves in the outfield with Cameron (when healthy) and Gold Glove caliber with Ellsbury (when healthy) and Drew makes it all look so easy when he glides after a ball, when he feels like it, and when he graces us with his outfield presence.  I wouldn't mind seeing Ellsbury back in center, and then a platoon in right and left between Drew and Cameron, and take your pick between the guys who did a good job subbing last year.  None of those guys, including Drew and Cameron are full-time players anymore--and excluding Ellsbury--so I wouldn't mind seeing Carl Crawford out there (the Nationals overpaid sickeningly for Werth).  BUT, you have to replenish your relief corps first, and if you do that and then don't have enough money left to sign Crawford, I am totally okay with that.  They fielded practically a minor league team last year in the outfield for most of the year, and were still second in the majors in offense, so they don't need another outfielder.  Get Beckett and Lackey back on track, and get a solid middle reliever or two, and if that's all you do, you're still going deep in the playoffs next season.

It Is Accomplished

 Photo: Dojran Lake

Okay, so no posts the last two days because I was working on my paper.  Turns out, I was able to do the whole thing in two days, Sunday and Monday.  I stayed at my job until 9pm Monday getting it done.  I was on a roll and didn't want to stop because I knew I could finish in time for the game.  So I worked on it for over 7 straight hours and got it done.  Yes!  I think it turned out fairly well, and I think I can conclusively say (as far as such things are said) that Alice Munro definitely had a copy of Chekhov's "The Kiss" opened in front of her while she wrote "Floating Bridge," which essentially is the Chekhov story told in reverse.  And I spent about 18 pages proving this.  In the meantime, I found a great library to work in, and I'm now free (until the next class) to work on my writing and my office to get more done.  My next goal is to move the two or three stories that I still haven't sent out yet, plus work on a few more.  I also joined two other writing groups, both much closer than the one I've been going to for the past two years, so hopefully that's all good.  I'm very excited about all this.  I'm looking forward to writing more, and writing better.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Different Library and the T206
Photo: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

I'm sitting here now at a different library than the one I'm used to.  This one is practically across the street from Borders, so I can quickly go there to work on my paper when the library closes.  I am enough of a literary freak to really appreciate libraries, and different places to write in general.  The best I've ever been in is the New York Public Library in Manhattan, which is beautiful beyond description and even owns not one, but two (!) Honus Wagner T206 cards.  One of them was pasted to a piece of paper a long time ago, and each time I see that one I want to scream.  What a waste!

But I digress.  This library is better, but worse.  They are on guard for all things liquid, so my iced coffee resides behind the reference desk.  The guy next to me has his in his cubicle with him, but I won't turn him in.  Not that kind of guy.  But they wouldn't even let me put it on the big table behind me.  I'm clearly over it.  These cubicles, though, are very cool because they have three plugs built into the left corner of each one, so I don't have to trail my Mac's cord across a room to plug it in.  My cubicle seems to be the main one, too, because there is also a large surge protector beneath it, in case I had 27 more things to plug in.  This cubicle also has a shelf just above those plugs, and the desk of the cubicle itself is big, so that the whole situation is very convenient.  Nice!

I also noticed that there are a ton of books about the Middle Ages, and even some that are encyclopedias of everyday life of various eras.  How cool is that?!?  So I know where to come and research for the chapters of the past for my plague novel (research for much of it you will find in previous blog posts, below).  This area is also relatively quiet, especially now that the buffaloes behind me are gone.  They had been playing loud games on the library computers and, after pausing, talking loudly about them, like they were in their 80s and wearing hearing aids.  Why didn't the coffee police speak to them?  Never mind, I'm over it.  Clearly.

The paper is going well.  I found a story by Chekhov and one by Munro that both contain the following things: remote location (this works literally and figuratively); thoughtful and reflective characters; a sudden kiss by an unexpected person; epiphanies caused by the kiss; a bridge at the end (also effective for literal and figurative purposes--and structural ones, too); minor characters who do not think or reflect as often or as deeply; minor characters who do not seem to suffer--or to be as aware--because of this; and overall examples of the everyday and their ordinary characters' responses to these everyday things.  I have so much, in fact, to comment on, and to cite, that I might not have the space for a Carver comparison after all.  Fine with me.  We'll see.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chekhov, Munro and Carver

I haven't posted in a few days.  Working hard on my latest paper for the present grad. class, and besides I've been just plain exhausted.  I even took a nap at home after work the last few days, which is not common for me.

So, this paper.  I've decided to show the similarities between Chekhov, Munro and Carver, since the latter two are often compared to the first.  Munro was famously called "our Chekhov" by fellow writer--and Canadian--Cynthia Ozick, and Carver wrote a short story about the last moments of Chekhov, who was a favorite of Carver's.  Carver spoke of him exhaustively.

This paper will start with several quotes of people who compare Munro and Carver to Chekhov, because of structural and textual reasons.  Then I begin the comparisons themselves by comparing Chekhov's "The Kiss" to Munro's "Floating Bridge."  I do this because both stories are structurally similar.  They're both essentially plotless--things just kinda happen.  Then there's the primary image, for which both stories are titled.  Both end with the characters standing on a bridge, both literally and metaphorically.  In Chekhov, this bridge is, of course, one of despair; in Munro, it is, of course, of a hopeful epiphany.  It'd be wonderful if I could also do this for one of Carver's stories, but for now a similar story with this many similarities escapes me.  But I checked out his Complete Stories, so I hope to find one.

I have decided all of this today.  This paper is due Tuesday at 4pm, and I have to work Monday and Tuesday, so I basically have tonight, all day and night tomorrow, and then Monday night, to type the whole thing.  Final product must be 12-15 pages, MLA, all that.  Wish me luck!!!