Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Some Wedding Pictures

Well, here are some pics of our wedding. The first one is our wedding kiss. Then it's "Champagne Time." The fellow in the blue shirt is Mark, who performed the ceremony. After that is a pic of Lana and I on the steps to our deck, and opposite of that a picture of my son, Joshua, and his girlfriend, Heidi. Finally, after everyone left, Lana slipped into something more comfortable, an all black honeymoon ensemble you might say.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Who Are You Anyway?

I walk pretty frequently in my neighborhood and generally avoid houses where I can. That’s not always possible, however, and today I walked further than usual because of the nice weather and passed a house where a boy of 7 or 8 and a girl of 4 or 5 were playing. The boy came running toward me as I approached but I tried merely to nod at him and continue on my way at a fairly fast pace. There would have been a time when I might have stopped to chat. But that time is not now.

The girl followed her brother, and made sure to inform me that he was her brother. I said, “your brother, huh. That’s nice.” I still kept walking, moving over to the far side of the gravel road as far away as possible, and tried to do nothing to encourage them to come closer. But I didn’t want to growl at them like some ogre.

The little girl turned and started running along beside me, along the side of the road, and asked: “Who are you anyway?” I replied, “Oh, my name is Charles and I’m just getting a little exercise.”

I heard the mother come outside then—I was almost past the house—and imagine she’d heard my voice. She snapped at the children, particularly her daughter, to “get over here.” The little girl asked her mother “why,” then said, “he was talking to me.” I thought to myself, I’d rather you not say that, little girl. I might get shot for something like that.

I almost stopped to explain to the mother who I was and try to reassure her that I’m just a harmless guy with long hair. But then I thought, what if she finds that suspicious? In the end I just kept going.

I’m proud of that mother for coming outside, for intervening. She did her job. I just wish it wasn’t her job. I wish she didn’t have to be suspicious of a fellow out for an evening stroll in the nice fall weather. I’d rather not be thought of as the bogie man. Even if it is almost Halloween.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Public Speaking and Anxiety

A major problem for those who aren't practiced at public speaking is the anxiety evoked by standing up in front of people to talk. I know how debilitating this can be because I suffered from it myself when I first started teaching. Unfortunately, I don't know an easy way to overcome this anxiety. There aren't any magic words to make the fear go away. However, there are some things that can help.

1. Avoid drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages before you talk. Yes, you need to be alert, but fear will probably do that for you anyway. Caffeine is a stimulant. In some people, even low doses of caffeine can actually create anxiety and even trigger panic attacks, especially when taken in association with an already anxiety producing event. Almost everyone who takes high doses of caffeine will increase their anxiety levels. Don't make yourself more nervous.

2. It's less anxiety provoking to talk about facts than opinions. Part of a speaker's anxiety will be the fear of being wrong, of making a mistake. Facts can be memorized and one can site supporting documents for them. That makes them hard to argue with. Opinions are easy to argue with. Everyone's got one. So, make as much of your talk factual as possible.

3. Practice, practice, practice. The more you prepare, the more you can knock your presentation out while half asleep, the less anxiety you'll feel.

4. It's good speaking practice to make eye contact with the entire group that you're talking to. However, early in your speaking career, you may need to find one or two supportive people to keep looking back to. You know, the folks who smile encouragingly when you make eye contact. If possible, why not salt your audience with a person or two who will offer such support and encouragement. I know that I like to have a few friends in the audience when I talk, although it's not always possible to do so.

5. Prioritize your presentation. People who teach you how to speak will tell you many things that you should do. Trying to remember all those different things can be intimidating. Keep in mind that your actual "talk" is priority number 1. You need to speak clearly and loud enough to be heard so that your information will be conveyed. A second priority is making a connection with the audience through eye contact, gestures, and smiles. Whether you have good posture or not, or whether you stand still at the podium, are lower level priorities. Don't let worry about those issues interfere with the more important elements.

6. Deep breaths and relaxation before you talk. Do things that normally help you combat anxiety.

7. Time passers. If you need a moment to think, a moment to remember where you are in your talk, have a glass of water handy to sip from. The audience will give you the time you need. Just don't stand there and hem and haw

8. Finally, if all else fails remember that it'll be over soon, that you'll still be alive, that the sun will rise, the earth will turn, and somebody somewhere thinks you're OK.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Some Pictures

Posting pictures today. Lana and I got a digital camera for our wedding from one of her good friends, and yesterday we took a bunch of pics at the Flatwoods, the nearby preserve I've mentioned here a few times. I thought I'd share a few so here goes.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Inside Northside Magazine

The November/December issue of Inside Northside magazine was published yesterday, and it contains an article by Ann Gilbert on “Northshore Authors.” One of the four authors featured is me. Cover pictures of Swords of Talera and Wings over Talera, and of Cold in the Light are prominently featured, which I appreciated. The article itself is quite complimentary and even has a few humorous elements. I thought Ann did a great job and really appreciated her considering me. I also owe a debt of thanks to Lana Gramlich, who first contacted the magazine about me. Lana Gramlich. I think that’s the first time I’ve written my wife’s new moniker.

Inside Northside has website but I don’t know if they have information about the current issue up yet. I’m going to have to look into getting a few more copies so I can send one to my mom and have one to show friends.

For my next blog post I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled series on public speaking for authors, but I wanted to share this while it was fresh.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Public Speaking for Writers 102

Avery made a very good point in his comments on my yesterday’s post. He suggested making sure you’ve actually prepared more material than you think you’ll have a chance to present. This is in case the question period doesn’t go well. I always try to develop my talks in modules of 5 to 15 minutes each so I can either leave out or add in modules to adjust for my time situation. Here’s how this works, using the example of my Dream Talk at Pagan Pride Day.

Module 1 - I allocated about 5 minutes or so to telling folks why I enjoy nightmares and to giving an example of one of mine. This is largely introductory material.

Module 2 – About 5 minutes were allocated to a brief description of the five stages of sleep and to the facts of sleep, such as that everyone dreams but that typically only those who wake up at the end of a dream remember them. This is set up material for the main body of the talk.

Module 3 – About 12 to 15 minutes were allocated for talking about ways to increase dreaming and improve one’s recall of dreams.

Module 4 – Here I used dream disorders to illustrate specific points about dreaming, such as how these could explain some ghost encounters or alien abduction experiences. This section of the talk was broken into sub modules. I had six sub modules planned, for about 3-5 minutes each, but was only able to get through three because of questions. I had more prepared, though, in case.

In a sense, the modular format works very much like “scenes” in writing. Individual modules can be moved around to fit the demands of the specific talk just as scenes can be moved around within the body of a manuscript. Neither modules nor scenes are infinitely flexible, but they do allow for better movement. They also make it much easier to practice and memorize a speech, at least for me.

More on public speaking in another post.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Public Speaking for Writers 101

The first time I had to teach a class I thought I was going to throw up. Mouth dry and yet acidic. Gut screaming for a release that would not come. Eyes darting left and right for an escape that could not be found. It was a 50 minute class and I’d prepared and practiced 50 minutes of notes. I completed these in 15 minutes of supersonic mumbling and dismissed the class with, “That’s about it for today.”

By week two I was actually making it all the way through class and was speaking clearly enough to be heard, and within a month I found myself enjoying teaching so much that I decided to become one. I still enjoy it to this day. Certainly, I still get nervous at times, especially when talking to a new audience, but it’s butterflies that energize rather than the physical agony that once terrorized.

Perhaps strangely, I’ve never written a “how to” essay about public speaking. It’s something I do all the time, but unlike with writing I don’t often think about the steps involved. That’s me saying that I don’t know what I’m going to put into my next few blog posts. It’s really going to be me thinking out loud, and it may not be terribly well organized. Maybe I’ll find some insights into my own teaching, and maybe there’ll be something to help other writers who find themselves invited to give a talk. I know many writers who hate public speaking, but I think it’s becoming more important all the time in developing a writing career. So, here goes, and please feel free to disagree or make counter arguments if you wish.

1. Time constraints: Unless specifically asked to do so, never plan a talk lasting more than an hour. I would suggest planning one of between 30 and 40 minutes, and that you time yourself through the talk at least twice during practice. Anything shorter than 20 minutes is likely to feel a bit like a cheat to those who invited you to talk, but people’s attention will lag toward the end of forty minutes no matter how interesting you are.

2. Question time: It is very important that you either allow questions throughout the talk, or have a question period at the end. People want to have a chance to be heard and to express their own opinions, and they will feel incomplete if they don’t get this chance. The best talks are interactive with the audience.

3. Personal anecdotes: Relate personal experiences that tie in with your talk, and this is especially effective if the story is humorous. However, always make yourself the butt of the joke. Do not poke fun at your spouse or children to people who are strangers. It'll make you look bad. And be careful of your audience if you make fun of public or political figures. George Bush might be easy to crack jokes about, but you might find yourself talking to some people who voted for him.

4. Telling Lies: Regarding personal experiences, is it OK to embellish or exaggerate these for the sake of getting your point across? I think it oftentimes is, and that writers can be particularly good at doing this. I don’t lie outright, and I don’t twist facts, but I will admit to exaggerating certain elements of a story for comedic or dramatic effect. Descriptions that audience members can visualize will stay with them. They will remember the point because they remember the story.

OK, that's about it for today. I’ll continue with this topic for my next post. Let me know what you think, or if you have any specific points you’d like me to consider or bring up for discussion.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pagan Pride and Rain Day

The Pagan Pride talk went off well, and I had so many questions after that they had to shut us down so the next speaker could talk. I enjoyed it, and enjoyed the day overall. Met some interesting folks. Lana had taken some of her excess books and some pagany clothes to sell and we ended up making over $130 on sales of items. Unfortunately, I only sold one book of my own, but I gave out cards and maybe another one or two will eventually pick up a copy.

There were two other authors there to speak, and they talked about spending week after week on the road promoting their work. Considering the low number of sales that I've usually had at such festivals I don't see how all that traveling is cost effective. But maybe they are much better salesmen than I am.

I think for my next post I'm going to talk a little about public speaking for writers, but right now I need to get out of the office. It has been raining all morning and the campus is flooding. They've cancelled afternoon classes so I want to get on my way before I'm trapped here the rest of the day and night.

Until later,

Saturday, October 20, 2007

More Dreams

Steve Malley has another great blog post on writing. Well worth checking out. As for me, I'm putting the finishing touches on my dream presentation for tomorrow, but between that and turning in mid-terms this last week I haven't had much time for my own writing.

Here's another of my weird dreams:

I'm planning to kill someone and creep up to their house to look through their windows. My vision wavers and is discolored, like looking through a flame and seeing objects on the other side. I seem to be hallucinating. I find an open window and slip inside.

My point-of-view shifts and I find myself in bed upstairs in my house. A sound has awakened me and I get up and go out to the landing. I see a man at the bottom of the stairs. He's holding a knife. With a shock of terror I realize that the man is me. But this me looks bestial; body hunched, hands curled, drool sliding from his lips.

My viewpoint switches again, and now I'm looking up the stairs. I see myself at the top of the stairs, without a knife, but again everything is distorted and wavering. I growl and rush up the steps toward my other self.

Viewpoint switch. I'm the me at the top of the stairs. I realize I can't escape. I leap down to meet myself. The bestial side of me slashes with the knife but I close with him, grabbing his wrist to stop the blade. We struggle, and I get a foot behind his leg, tripping him. He pulls me down on top of him and we go thrashing down the stairs. I switch personalities and viewpoints back and forth as we roll down and down, our limbs windmilling.

We hit the pine-wood floor at the bottom of the stairs with a whumpf that shakes the house. One me stands up, chest heaving, breathing wildly. The other lies still, legs and arms akimbo, the blade of the knife standing up from his chest. I look around the house. Although I don't see any visual distortions it occurs to me that I'm not sure which of us survived.

Somewhere in the house there is wild laughter.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Well, I picked up my first negative review for Swords of Talera. Ouch! Amazing how much it hurts. What’s worse, I asked for the review. Double ouch! Also, I was sort of expecting it to be good since I recieved an email from the reviewer in late September saying: "I finished Swords of Talera. I enjoyed it very much." Triple ouch!

I first wrote “Swords” when I was 24, and though I polished and repolished the manuscript before it was published as a paperback I knew it suffered a bit in the plot department because of my youthfulness at the time it was constructed. I didn’t think it was as good as the two sequels, Wings Over Talera and Witch of Talera, but I did believe that the fast pace and the characters of Ruenn, Jask, and Rannon would carry readers along. Not so much, I guess. At least not in this case. Now I'm going to have to go back and revise my post on my writing strengths, take out the "action scene" one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Dream Work

One of the reasons why I posted my "Rainbow's Fall" dream yesterday is because I'm preparing a presentation for this Sunday on the topic at the local Pagan Pride Festival. Part of the focus will be on how to improve recall of your dreams. Among other things, don't drink caffiene or take any kind of sleep aid before bedtime. These usually interrupt dream sleep. I also suggest that people keep a small tape recorder by the bedside as a quick way to record dream images and impressions without the hassle of turning on a light to write by.

I'll also be talking about dream sleep disorders such as sleep paralysis, Narcolepsy, and REM without Atonia. And about hypnogogic and hypnopompic phenomena. Hypnogogic events are very sudden, dream-like incidents that happen as one is going to sleep, while hypnopompic events are similar things that happen as you come out of sleep. I've had a fair number of each experience, and I firmly believe that these and some other sleep state events can explain many cases of so-called astral projection, demonic or ghost contacts, and even alien abduction experiences.

In one of my hypnopompic experiences I witnessed a shape moving underneath the bed sheets and was grabbed around the wrist by it. Quite terrifying while it was occurring, though afterward all I could think!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rainbow's Fall

* I come walking across a winter heath with a rainbow arching through gray skies above me. Sharply there comes a splintering crack, like ice breaking on a spring river, and I look up to see half the rainbow hanging down from the other half like a twisted limb. Once imprisoned colors begin to spill down, blues that change the sky’s hue to summer, greens that make me think of bare feet in deep grass, then yellows and oranges that sundown the world. Last come the reds, pouring out like angry blood.

When the rainbow is empty it hangs like a crystal holograph in the sky, until it cracks again and tumbles madly in pieces to the ground. I go on across the heath, through colors that clump and cling like mud to my boots, until I find where the rainbow has fallen. It lies in chunks, like twisted boxcars from a wrecked train.

I enter the first such “car,” and then the next and the next, to find piled within all the garbage that the human race has thrown away over the years: one tennis shoe without laces, a broken tin top, sandwich wrappers, a rusted out stove, a chair with the cane back smashed in, nylons with the toes stripped, clothes stained with tobacco and oil. Further along through the fallen rainbow are older discards: gnawed bones, a misshapen flint, a shattered spear.

When I come to the last section of the rainbow, I cannot enter. I can see dimly through to the other end, and outside stands my house, the goal I have been tramping across the heather to reach. But shadows roil in the space before me, between where I stand and where I want to be. The breeze dies when it enters that place. But something moves. Something lives. I see need the color of black. I hear rage like a pressure against my ears. Something waits, but cannot control itself enough to wait silently. That is its downfall.

I turn and trudge back the long way through the trash.

* This is an actual dream I had quite a few years ago. I’ve tried before to capture it in prose, have tried in poetry. Nothing quite works, but it was certainly an interesting dream.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reading and Referral

Like the obsessive compulsive that I am, I keep records of what I read each year, and I date my reading year from my birthday rather than January 1. Said birthday being today, October 14. (Lana's is October 13, btw.) The 06-07 year was a good one for me. I read 100 books, which is above my usual average. But my total was helped by deciding last year that I was going to read some shorter books and more poetry. The 9 poetry collections I got through didn't take a lot of time. Other than that, nonfiction was my highest category, with 19. Mystery/thriller followed at 18, and then 17 and 14 respectively for fantasy and horror.

The best book I read this year was Gently into the Land of the Meateaters by Jim Sallis, which is a collection of his essays. The worst one was the Werewolf one that I blogged about on September 3 under the title "Altering Point of View," and another weak one was a collection of Japanese Cthulhu Mythos stories that I had to read for a review. The most interesting poetry collection I read was Charles Bukowski's Love is a Dog from Hell.

For the new reading year I've decided to focus on big books, and, accordingly, have started Red Mars, at over 570 pages, by Kim Stanley Robinson. The first 15 pages nearly wrecked it for me. It was essentially an "epilogue" to the story, and I was within a page or two of tossing it before it started to get interesting. Once he went back and started on the beginning of the story on page 26 I quickly found myself hooked and am reading avidly.

As for writing today, I'm going to simply refer you to an excellent piece by Steve Malley entitled "As Above, So Below." Lot of good stuff in this one.

Friday, October 12, 2007

News and a Tag

The wedding came off with a hitch, as in we got hitched. (Ha ha ha. I just crack myself up.)

But seriously, we had a great day. The ceremony was short and sweet and Lana looked beautiful. Many pictures were taken by our friend Katya, but she has to download them for us. I will be posting some in time. Afterward, we took the entire wedding party to dinner at Trey Yuen, the best Chinese restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. Of course, the entire party consisted of Lana, me, Katya, my son Josh and his girlfriend Heidi, and Mark, our friend and minister. Today we plan to have a picnic and then spend the weekend relaxing and enjoying our deck. It’ll be a quiet honeymoon, just like we like it.

In other items, I’ve been tagged by Lisa over at Eudaemonia to list five of my writing strengths. This has proven quite difficult because I keep wanting to qualify whatever strengths I come up with. I wonder why writers so often have trouble tooting their own horns. Anyway, here is the best I can do.

1. I do a pretty good job at description. Most people say they have no trouble visualizing what I’m writing about. This can be a bit overwhelming for some folks when I’m writing horror scenes, though.

2. From years of reading, I think I have a pretty decent vocabulary. I know words like swive and ophidian and aspergillum and squamous. Unfortunately, one seldom gets to use such words. Sigh!

3. I can put together a decent action scene. This is probably because I really enjoy writing them.

4. I’m my own worst critic. I consider this a strength rather than a weakness. Whatever I write, I write it to the best of my ability. That ability may not be so great, but I don’t shirk my duty to the reader and I don’t let laziness make me send out a piece that I know is inferior.

5. Perhaps my most important strength is that I actually enjoy rewriting. It’s fun to take something as ugly as my first drafts and make them look decent. Rewriting has definitely been the key to whatever small success I’ve had.

As for tagging others, I will politely resist the urge.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Special Day

I won't be posting today other than this brief comment. It's a special day for me. Lana and I are getting married! The ceremony will take place this afternoon on our deck. And we have a lovely cool day for it. And now I have a few things to do.

From Lana and I both, we hope everyone has some joy today.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Serial Position Curve, Part 1

Psychological research shows that when someone is given a list of words to remember they tend to recall best the words that begin and end the list. This suggests one important way that words of power can be used in writing. If we consider a sentence to be a kind of “list” of words, then the opening and ending positions in the sentence are the places to focus our most powerful images. The opening position creates the “primacy” effect while the end position produces the “recency” effect. Because the “primacy” effect is not quite as simple as it seems where writing is concerned, let’s consider the recency effect in this blog post.

He rode with our enemies on a coal, black horse.

“Horse” is not a bad word for the end, but certainly not the strongest word in the sentence. What about, instead:

He rode with our enemies on a horse as black as coal.

For another example: A blade sheathed in cold copper hung at his belt.

“Belt” is one of the weaker words in this sentence and certainly not a good ender. Instead, how about:

At his belt hung a blade sheathed in cold copper.

This may be something that most everyone here already has a feeling for, but I don't think it hurts to stress it again. It's also pretty much exactly what Candice Proctor was talking about in her “Punch it Up” post, and it’s something we’ve been talking about a lot in our writing group lately. It just took me a while to realize that this is the same basic principle as the “recency” effect in psychology.

Words of power can best work their magic on the minds of your readers when they are in positions of power. One such position is found at the end of a sentence or paragraph.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Words of Power: A Summing Up?

I’ve been having a terrible time getting connected to the internet today, both at work and at home. It has taken me forever to get some comments written, so if I haven’t gotten around to your blog that’s the reason. I did want to try and post some more on the “words of power” idea. Maybe if I copy and paste this I’ll be able to get it posted.

First, thanks to everyone for their wonderful comments. I saw a lot of great words listed. While most words mentioned were nouns--“Iron,” “Bone,” “Sword”--there were some cool adjectives such as “Feral” and “Burning.” I was happy to see, for internal reasons, that not all the power words mentioned were concrete.

The words actually seemed to come in three categories. “Fire,” “Gun” and “Mist” are pretty concrete, pretty visual. "Pain," “Midnight,” “Sunlight,” and “Adrenaline” are more amorphous. They’re sort of between the concrete and the abstract. “Fear,” “Evil,” and “Violence” are typically defined as abstract.

The reason I was glad to see abstract words in folks’ lists is because I’ve had a running debate with some writer friends about words like “Violence” and “Soul” for some time. I’ve been told repeatedly that “Violence” is an ineffective word because people can’t visualize it. The problem with that argument is that I can visualize it. I’ve even gone so far as to respond with: “Violence is concrete.” I realize now what I actually mean. Words like “Pain” and “Fear” and “Violence” have a great deal of resonance, so much so that they call up plenty of concrete visuals when I see them used.

I think this means that my friends are wrong and I’m right. So there. :)~

Or am I?

More on this topic to come.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Words of Power 2

Yesterday I posted some of my power words, two of which created largely negative images in me. I don’t want to give the impression that such words are generally negative so here are a few of my more positive ones.

Son: Little legs kick, little arms move. A smile from a crib. I hear a gurgling laugh. I see a small back, riding away for the first time on a bicycle. A young pitcher puts another strike across the plate. A boy near grown hugs his father.

Fog: It’s morning. Sounds are hushed. The grass is thick with wet diamonds. Trees drip a faint, cool liquor to earth. A pleasant chill shrouds my walk, pats soft, damp fingers to my face. Every old curve of road is new again. Mysterious.

Silk: I see a shimmer in dim light; my fingers caress a coolness that is sweet. She moves. A faint sound, too delicate to call a rustle, too soft to call a swish. Slickness clings, wrinkles, smoothes. Pupils dilate.

Tomorrow or Monday I’ll post about some of the words that other bloggers have mentioned in comments here, and about ways to use these words in writing. Thanks to everyone who added their words. Some great stuff there. Interesting stuff.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Words of Power

Certain words evoke emotions and associations. They punch you where you read. Like a moss-slicked boulder in a creek, they break your thoughts into eddies that must flow over or around them. Again, I would call this resonance.

Snow: Goosebumps rise. My toes ache for fire. I see the cattle with white rime along their backs. Slush piles up on the corners of the truck’s windows where the wipers can't beat. Near the ditches the pale purity is churned into mud. But sometimes the light strikes blindingly from the distance.

Blood: It stops me when I read upon it. I see crimson splatters on white. I see black and clotted gore with flies gathering, and necklaces of ruby on pale ivory throats. I see many things: like the red-wine stain that darkened the torn knee of my blue jeans after I totaled my motorcycle.

Death: I see my sister's skeletal face as she lay dying from cancer. I hear the rattle of her breathing in her last moments. I see my father’s waxen pallor in the satin lined coffin, rosary beeds upon his chest. I feel my own wet cheeks. In the background there are battlefields, spent weapons fallen like frozen lightning. The ravens lift.

What are your words of power? The words of power? Find them and you’ll find your muse.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Symbolism versus resonance

How do you feel about the use of symbolism in what you read? What you write? I confess that I’m not a big fan of deliberate and conscious symbolism as it is often used by writers. I’ve read books (Steinbeck anyone?) where the Christian imagery is rather overwhelming, and obvious. I don’t like being hit over the head with a writer’s point. I don’t like having them force my recognition of their philosophy or anti-philosophy. I did not, for example, find Pilgrim’s Progress a compelling read. This is one thing I didn’t care for in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. I believe that George Lucas made better movies before he became so conscious of the fact that he was writing out Joseph Cambell’s concept of myth. On a lesser note, I tried to watch the new sitcom Cavemen last night but not only was it not funny, but it tried to symbolically connect the modern “caveman” experience to that of African Americans and those of Jewish decent in a way that I found incredibly trivial.

On the other hand, I enjoy discovering symbols and meaning when it is subtle and serves completely the needs of the story. I love how Jack Finney’s Body Snatchers and Robert Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters can be read as indictments of Cold War paranoia. But, first and foremost, these stories stand on their own as stories. The symbolism, the relevance, is gravy.

What Finney did was create a sense of “resonance” in his story rather than using overt symbolism. The power of this approach is that it is all about the “reader” and not the writer. The reader feels the currents passing underneath them. They know something is stirring in the depths, that it’s rising toward them, but it takes a while to figure out what. By the time they figure it out they are already engulfed with the awareness. And seldom will two different readers figure out the same thing. Such stories are very much a “build your own adventure” or at least “build your own meaning” experience.

I may post some more on this topic because it fascinates me. I know I run the risk of insulting folks who like overt symbolism, but such is not my intent. Some excellent works exist where the symbolism is clear. But there are plenty of works that lack overt symbolism but still create a sense of resonance in the reader. I personally prefer the latter. How about you?

Monday, October 01, 2007

Untamed Nature

Lana and I went for a walk last evening at the Flatwoods Preserve, which I've mentioned here before. The Flatwoods is about a mile from our place and we've never seen another human there, although we have seen a few human tracks. The Preserve is a place where conservationists are trying to maintain a combination of Longleaf Pine savannah and Bayhead swamp, some 90% of which has been lost in the USA. There is a boardwalk called "Pitcher Plant Trail" for all the carnivorous Pitcher plants that grow alongside it. Below is a picture of the boardwalk.

There is also a grass and dirt path that Lana and I tpyically detour on to get further back into the preserve area. It is along that pathway, along about here

that I came within two steps of putting my foot down on a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin. He had clearly heard me coming because he had his mouth open toward me and I swear I could see his fangs dripping a clear and evil venom. (Ok, maybe I exaggerate about the clearness of the venom.) Let me tell you that I gave a quick little hop, skip and jump backward, said movement which was accompanied by a small shriek. Nothing seems to get the heart rate up like a snake in your path.

In fact, we've seen snakes most of our times at the Flatwoods. Most have been non-poisonous but we did see a small Copperhead. Both Lana and I decided to wear boots next trip.

Besides snakes, we saw four huge spiders, one green one and three of the yellow and black garden variety. One of the latter had only 7 legs. I guess there's a story there, a life and death struggle on a micro scale.

How many of you have ever imagined what if you were shrunk down to insect size? I have. And I've always loved books and stories in that vein. My favorites were the three "micronaut" books by Gordon Williams, but there's almost enough of these kinds of stories to be a whole subgenre. I just read one called "Killer Pine," by Lindsay Gutteridge. This is one of a series about a micro spy. And, of course, there is TV/Movie tie-in with such offerings as Honey I shrunk the Kids and, my favorite, Land of the Giants.

Imagine, you wake up one morning on a vast snowy plain. But it is a warm plain, a plain of cotton rather than snow. In the night you've been shrunken down. Your bed is now an unexplored world, full of it's own valleys and hills. In the distance you see a dark shape coming toward you across the white expanse. I guess you better hope you don't have bed bugs.