Saturday, August 08, 2009

Implosion, and Other Tales of My Days

I’ve done exactly zero writing in the past three days. That’s not like me but I just have not been able to get going. Each time I sit down at the computer I end up either fiddling with my books or just playing the video game Age of Empires. It’s not the fact that Lana needs the occasional hand. She’s a model patient, and is recovering, although she still feels pretty miserable. The slowdown is inside me.

Of course, I could make excuses. My legs have been bothering me pretty badly and yesterday I spent a fair amount of time on the phone with our internet provider, and with issues dealing with my son trying to get back into school this fall. Turns out his health records were misplaced after Katrina and the school needed evidence of his immunizations. We finally got that straightened out but it took a bit.

The problem is really a lack of focus on my part. The summer is winding down here and within 10 days I’ll be back at work. I’ll have to get started on syllabi sooner than that. Although I like my job, transitions are hard for me. I’m going to try to get going today, though. Wish me luck.

One interesting thing came out of fiddling with my books, though. I was looking through an old book of SF stories called Santana Morning and Other Stories by Mike Dolan. It was published from Powell Sci-Fi in 1970. Interestingly, it contains a story called “The Fog,” which I reread, and I had to arch an eyebrow at the strong similarities with Stephen King’s later novella “The Mist.” King’s story is much better and more detailed, and the two stories certainly aren’t identical, but there are enough similarities to make me wonder whether King read “The Fog” once upon a time and it stayed with him to influence him when he wrote “The Mist.” I'm absolutely not saying that King might have plagiarized this story. It's more the basic idea that is similar. The writing and wording and style are all quite different. It could have been an influence on King, nothing more.

In publishing news, our Writing in Psychology: A Guidebook is out as of yesterday. This is a textbook I wrote with a couple of other faculty members at Xavier: Elliott Hammer, and Y Du Bois Irvin (who is the granddaughter of W. E. B. Du Bois). This is a book specifically designed to help students in writing formal term papers and research reports. We use it in our psychology department writing classes at Xavier and I have hopes some other schools might adopt it. It’s strictly nonfiction, and unless you’re taking a course in psychology or writing papers in a field where APA style is used it’s probably not going to be useful to anyone here. It’s not a general writing guide like Write With Fire. I’m pretty happy with it, though. The cover is here if you want to take a look at the details. The cover is also below:



David Cranmer said...

Good to hear Lana is doing well and brother take five minutes to breathe. You deserve it. And as soon as I hit civilization I plan on grabbing WRITE WITH FIRE.

Scott said...


I know what you mean about internal writing slowdown...I haven't done much lately myself. Not really sure why.

You're up early this A.M...I'm only up because we had an attempted break-in at about 5:30 this morning...we're all OK, though, and the assholes have already been caught, but it's a bit too much excitement this early for me. :)

Tell Lana I Said 'hi' and that I hope she's better very soon.

Charles Gramlich said...

David, yes, Lana is getting along pretty well. HOpe she feels really good soon. And thanks, my friend.

Scott, geeze dude. Glad you are all OK. That's kind of scary. I'm up early because of a different kind of break in. The freaking racoons broke into my trash last night and scattered it all over the place. I had to pick that up before the wind scattered it everywhere. Oh joy. Glad you guys are OK though, and that the aholes were caught.

ivan said...

No question. The versatile and ubiquitous Charles Gramlich. People are probably nipping and tucking at you, sending you stuff and material they think you'd find interesting.
Things take energy, however.
Be like Norman Mailer, I suppose. "Hoard you energy like a miser." Not so miserly as the Body Fluids man in Dr. Strangelove,but more like Oklahoma rocker J. J. Cale who is still a-rockin' at age 70, even though he has to sit down now while playing the song he wrote for Eric Clapton, "Cocaine."
Cale paces himself, refuses big Sony contracts, says the hell with more exposure, sits down in a comfortable chair to play. Rockin' grandpa..
My doctor used to say, "Manage yourself as well as you manage other people."
Even old Leadbelly knew this:

Relax your mind,
Relax your mind,
Ooh, it`ll make you live a great long time.
Sometime you`ve got to relax your mind.

Easy to say, but even laid back J.J Cale did write,

If you got bad news, you want to kick them blues, cocaine
When your day is done and you got to run, cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine
If your thing is gone and you want to ride on, cocaine
Don’t forget this fact, you can’t get it back, cocaine
She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie, cocaine

Ah what the hell. Flaurbert says "Live quiet and bourgeois, so you can write like a lion at night."

Ah, but have a little nip and oh hell, let her rip!

BernardL said...

Everything I've ever written has been influenced by what I've read or seen. If replicating ideas in plots were plagiarism, Hollywood writers would be in court everyday of their lives. :) I'm glad Lana is improving.

laughingwolf said...

glad lana's improving, if slowly

grats on the new pub, and good luck getting back in the writing groove

did not carpenter direct a film called 'the fog', many years ago?

author/screenwriter alexandra sokoloff [link in my sidebar] posted a story breakdown of 'the mist' just last week...

laughingwolf said...

yup, back in 1980... another version came out in '05

laughingwolf said...

rats, i see she has removed it from her blog :(

Donnetta said...

Charles: Take good care of Lana! I'll tell hubby about your psychology book! Have a good rest of the summer! D

Rick said...

Crossing my fingers that things stay well with Lana.

And maybe you're just slowing down as your subconscious builds up steam to deliver to your mental doorstep that greatest writing idea you've ever conceived.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting how students now start asking for syllabi in June. Like preparing a course is all there is to do. Best to Lana.

jodi said...

Charles, Be kind to yourself and let it all evolve. I too, am slow to change, but it's worse if I push it too much. Unfortch, your summer is winding down.. Take care of your Girl.

Charles Gramlich said...

ivan, I've really taken steps to hoarde my energies in the last few years. But still I'm not always able to do so. I often claim that most of what I seem to do in my day to day teaching job is "other people's work." I like the song Cocaine quite a lot.

BernardL, certainly. That's why I stress it's not plagiarism but influence. we are all a product of our influences and sometimes we won't even recall those influences ourselves. It is intersting to trace those influences though. Or at least to speculate.

laughingwolf, the movie "The Fog" is very different, since it's a localized one that masks a haunting. Dennis Etchison did the novelization. The fog of the Dolan story and the mist in King's story are both covering the world. Or so it seems, and both have a particular place they are springing from. And both have "things" hidden in it that don't seem to be of our dimension." Thanks for the congrats.

Donnetta Lee, thanks. I appreciate that. we actualy had several major publishers show some interst in that book but most of the bigger publishers already had a writing in psych book in their lineups. I think ours is better in a lot of ways, though.

Rick, whoa, I like the way you think. I'm going with that!

Charles Gramlich said...

pattinase, I'm often amazed at that. Although it doesn't happen terribly often. but it happens more frequently than you might imagine.

jodi, thanks. Will do for sure.

Cloudia said...

feel better;
Warm Aloha to Lana!


Comfort Spiral

Steve Malley said...

Y'know, it strikes me that maybe the two stories could have sprung up independently. It's a foggy, foggy morning here in Christchurch, and wondering if maybe it's the end of the world on the other side of that mist seems like the most natural thing in the world...

laughingwolf said...

ah ok... did not know ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, thankee.

Steve Malley, oh it could well be. I'm sure that happens often. It seems like a fairly natural idea as well.

laughingwolf, I thought the movie "The Fog" Was quite good. Scared me.

the walking man said...

Seems to me for someone who has done exactly zero writing the 518 words of this post (yeah I copied and pasted into a blank word doc. to check...hey it's the middle of the night and I was bored)is a bit beyond zero.

Is Lana being a model patient and taking her scrips as needed? I saw her do a post or two so I know she is....mend well Lana.

That thing about King 8shrug* you and me and every other person who calls themselves a writer would have to be blind and deaf in order to not pick up consciously or unconsciously inspirations from the things we encounter.

Get those legs looked at.

And have a good year and a good time selling the text book, you do know you have to sell it right if you want other schools to use it?

Randy Johnson said...

As far as not being focused, you seem to have plenty on your plate. The mind can only divide so far sometimes. It will all come together in it's time,
And, as always, wish Lana good health and continuing recovery.

Lisa said...

Some days these lyrics come to mind. Thought I share them with you.

A squirrel in the tree is he watching me
Does he give a damn?
Does he care who I am?
I'm just a man, is that all I am
Are my manners misinterpreted words or only human?
I'm human

Murderous crow, hey what you know
What you reading about, what you hold in your toes
Is that a twig, are you a dove of peace
A black dove undercover, with another puzzle piece
Are you a riddle to solve all along?
Or am I over thinking thoughts of human after all

Only human
Made of flesh, made of sand, made of you and me
The planet's talking about a revolution
The natural laws ain't got no constitution
They've got a right to live their own life
But we keep paving over paradise

'Cause we're only human
Yes we are, only human
If it's our only excuse do you think we'll keep on being only human
Yes we are, yes we are
Only human, only human, only human
So far.

~ Jason Mraz

ivan said...

Curious that the blog I have up right now is titled "Are writers really human?"

Anonymous said...

I think it would have been better had it been Heff's profile on the cover.


G. B. Miller said...

Always an adventure in trying to write sometimes.

You say you're gonna write, plan your day accordingly, then somehow, your output is the equivalent of a crossword puzzle.

writtenwyrdd said...

Glad Lana's doing well! And I know what you mean about having off writing times. Happens to me a lot...but on my part it might just be a certain lack of discipline more than anything else

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, hum, that 518 counts more as avoiding writing to me. Yes, Lana has been a model patient. She's feeling quite a bit better today. I have periphreal neuropathy in my legs and feet, possibly related to back issues related to my motorcycle accidents. Some days are better than others. As for the book and other schools, yes, I'm going to contact other schools and send some copies to programs as soon as I get my contributor copies and can buy others at the reduced author price.

Randy Johnson, yes, that's pretty much what it feels like. A divided mind. I have the discipline to overcome it but have not had the discipline to discipline myself. If that makes any sense.

Ocean Girl, some days I'm more human than others. ;) Good lyrics. I don't know that song, I don't think.

ivan, I know. I read that post. When I hear that I'm human I sometimes want to do the Spock thing and say: "I see no reason to stand here and be insulted."

Wil, Heff should write a book. But then he'd have to read it!

G, yep, that has happened to me the last two days. Maybe today will be better.

writtenwyrdd, I have the discipline. I just need to discipline my discipline at the moment.

Lana Gramlich said...

You HAD mentioned a desire to spend some time before returning to work doing nothing. Perhaps this is your brain's way of enforcing that?
Regardless, you HAVE accomplished some writing things this Summer, so please don't beat yourself up to badly about it.

(Thanks to everyone for the well wishes, btw. Getting better slowly but surely!)

Jo said...

I have been feeling sort of in a "relaxation" mode lately too. I think it's called "summer". As Ivan says, "Things take energy" and sometimes we need to relax and regroup. I have a sneaky feeling you have been subconsiously a bit worried about Lana, too. We always feel concern about people we love.

I'm glad to hear she is feeling better.

Tyhitia Green said...

I still have all of my psych. books from school. I'll take a look at it. :-)

I know you said that you haven't written, but have you written your hint fiction pieces yet? I'm going to submit mine today or tomorrow. :-)

cs harris said...

Congrats on the book, Charles; I plan to order one for Dani.

And I identify with your avoidance fidgeting--only I think you've identified your problem (the coming transition) whereas mine's still a mystery. We do need to address this issue in the group.

Erik Donald France said...

Good luck man -- Everybody needs some kind of break sometimes, even from things they love to do. Besides which, August is kind of dog-daze month. It's my least favorite of all.

Congrats on the textbook!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana Gramlich, yeah, I just know that I've got a lot left to write and not a lot of time before it'll be writing with working, which is not ideal.

Jo, thanks, yes, Lana is doing better, although she is starting to get impatient to 'be well now." I can understand the feeling.

Demon Hunter, yes, the hint fiction pieces went off already. Most of them were sort of prewritten in that they were openings to stories or books that I haven't written through yet. They just needed tweaking.

Candy, that'll be a good topic for the group. Looking forward to it. My mind just doesn't want to wrap itself around work yet.

Erik, August is definitely dog-daze. Maybe a legacy from my long history of returning to school in one capacity or another during those days.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I do think it's the time of year. I'm suffering from lack of focus, too. I hope these last 10 days for you bring enough bliss to carry you through (at least) Christmas break :)

Travis Cody said...

Congratulations on your contributions to the textbook. I've always been fascinated by textbooks.

I know...I'm weird that way. I still have a lot of my textbooks from my college days.

As to the slow down, perhaps you could see it as part of the transition process. It might make that a bit easier as you start working on syllabi.

Charles Gramlich said...

L.A. Mitchell, That would be nice. I'm not holding my breath though. ;)

Travis, I always read my textbooks and kept them too. Good students do.

david mcmahon said...

Good to hear Lana is on the mend. My thoughts are with both of you.

Vesper said...

"zero writing" - Oh, I know all about that....

But Charles, it'll come back to you...

I'm glad that Lana is doing better and I wish her lots of good health.

Congratulations on the new book!

Chris Eldin said...

I'm also relieved to hear Lana is on the mend. I'm sure the worry has affected you more than you really realize.

And I understand about transitions. I think we all deal with transition in different ways. I think once you're more into 'acceptance' mode of the upcoming change, things will fall into place for you.

Charles Gramlich said...

david mcmahon, thanks my friend.

Vesper, yes, I know I'll get untracked. I just need to focus. And thanks.

Chris Eldin, I started working on syllabi last night so that's pretty far in the acceptance mode I guess. ;)

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've found it hard to get going again with my writing whenever the routine is broken. Still, it's good to get a break once in awhile. You certainly deserve one.

As for "The Fog" & "The Mist," ideas are a dime a dozen, it's how the writer presents those ideas that matter. Still, it's those writers that can come up with something entirely original and present it well, that'll scroe big for me as a reader.

j said...

20 years ago I was a HUGE King fan and The Stand remains one of my favorite books. I love his style. The similarities would make one wonder. Inspiration has to come from somewhere. right?

I'm sorry Lana is still uncomfortable. Prayers that she feels better quickly.

Charles Gramlich said...

JR, oh I agree. It's what the writer does with the idea, and "the Mist" is a very good piece. I just find tracing influences intersting.

Jennifer, King definitely mined a lot of older works for ideas, which is fine. Nothing wrong with that. My favorite by King is "Misery." But I've liked a fair amount of his stuff.

Barbara Martin said...

Healing takes time, and I'm sure Lana will be feeling better soon. Take some time for yourself, Charles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Barbara, thanks. She's doing much better today.

Lana Gramlich said...

Congratulations on yet another book, sweetie pie. I'm sorry you had some troubles. Going back to work sucks.