Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday Bliss

You gotta love a day like today. Although I have one more test to give and grade tomorrow, I finished the grading for my other tests last night and was able to turn in the grades early this morning. That gave me the rest of the day off. And it's amazing how much you can get done with a day off.

After visiting some blogs and handling some of the business elements of writing, I headed out to a new Sushi place that just opened up. This was "Kazoku Sushi" and I will definitely be visiting again. The white tuna wasn't terribly good, but the pepper tuna and California roll were exquisite. It turned out that the waitress remembered me from when she used to work at a different sushi restaurant so I also got very good service. (Hey, being a man with long hair sometimes works in your favor.)

After lunch, I returned home and folded a couple of loads of clothes, then had a most excellent two hour nap. By 3:45, I was ensconced upon my deck with the laptop at hand working on the galleys for a book called Bitter Steel, which I've mentioned here before and which I hope will be published some time this year. It's a collection of my fantasy short stories. It was a beautiful sunny day, about 70 degrees, with lots of birds flitting among the feeders in our yard. I worked pretty much straight through until about 6:45, making very good progress, and am now taking my supper break.

Who knows what I'll do next. Read? Watch a movie? Write some more? That's the beauty of a day off. Time to relax and time to write. Man, I could get used to this kind of schedule.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wow, It's Been A While

I see it's been since April 18 that I last posted, and the same length of time since I've done much blog visiting. My Google Reader has 365 posts for me to look at. I fear I won't get many done.

I graded 25 papers in that time, 26 essays, and 26 tests, as well as figuring out extra points and various other grading related efforts. I'm not done. I give a final exam today, one tomorrow, and one Thursday. So though I'm going to post today I still won't get a chance to visit many blogs.

The main thing I need to do is to announce the winner of the drawing for a free Gramlich book. These were individuals who had reviewed or commented or supported "Chimes" on their blog. And I much appreciate it!

The drawing included.


The winner, by random selection from a hat, was David Cranmer. Congratulations to David, or sympathies, depending on your point of view. I'll drop a note over to David's blog for him to contact me about the book he wants.

Thanks to all.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Did You Know?

I’m reading a book by Bill Bryson called Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words and enjoying it quite a lot. It’s a collection of entries about problem words, problem spellings, problem usages, etc. Not something you read straight through but something you browse. I have found a fair number of things that I did not know, though, so perhaps you won’t know them either. Here goes:

1. “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well” is not the quote. It’s “Alas poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.”

2. Axel, axle. I thought they were both spelled the same. An axle, of course, is what connects two wheels. An “axel” is a “jump in ice skating.” I’d heard the term but didn’t know it was spelled differently.

3. Bellwether. Originally, a “bellwether” was a sheep with a bell around its neck that was used to lead other sheep to a new pasture. Who knew?

4. Dormouse. First, I probably have often spelled this doormouse, and second, it’s apparently not a mouse at all.

5. Flotsam and jetsam. Although I knew the difference between these two materials (jetsam is what has been jettisoned from a boat while flotsam is what has just floated off), I didn’t know that, traditionally, “flotsam went to the Crown and jetsam to the lord of the manor on whose land it washed up.” Cool.

6. Forego, forgo. I never realized these terms were spelled differently. I just thought “forego” had two meanings. In reality, “forego” means to go in front of someone or something while “forgo” is to deny yourself something. I think I will forgo dessert this evening. The bands will forego the parade. I don’t see “forego” used very often these days.

7. Gantlet, gauntlet. I thought “gauntlet” just had two meanings, one as a type of glove and the other as the double line of people through which another person must run while being beaten. Apparently, “gantlet” used to be the preferred term for the “double line of people” meaning, but it has been so confused over time that almost everyone uses “gauntlet” now for both meanings. I’m going to start using “gantlet” again. Let’s save “gantlet!” I'm throwing down the guantlet to anyone who uses guantlet where gantlet should be used.

8. Grandiloquence. It’s not spelled grandeloquence. Eek. I think I’ve screwed that up a time or two.

NOTE: this week begins our final testing and grading period for the semester so my posting and commenting will be spotty.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Things I Don’t Care About:

I was talking to my class this morning about how research shows that young organisms are much more likely to imitate behavior they observe than older animals are. This is true, as well, of humans. It made me wonder if my recent irritation with the “news” has to do with the fact that I’m getting older. But here are just a few things that have been big in the news recently that I-—pardon my French-—don’t give a shit about.

1. I don’t give a shit about how many women Tiger Woods has slept with, or whether he will play well in his current golf tournament considering how distracted he must be by all the media attention.

2. I don’t give a shit that Oprah apparently slept with John Tesh many years ago. I don’t even give a shit that there’s been an unauthorized biography published about her.

3. I don’t give a shit that Jesse James slept with a tattoo model, or that he has gone into treatment for sex addiction.

4. I don’t give a shit that Randy Quaid is having troubles with the law. Hell, I only remember him from two movies, Christmas Vacation and The Long Riders.

5. I don’t give a shit that Pamela Anderson is having money woes. Rather, I’m sorry for anyone having money woes. I just don’t care that it’s Pamela Anderson rather than Jane Doe.

6. I don’t give a shit about a hundred other stories about celebrities that I haven’t yet been bombarded with but which I’m sure will be the “news” tomorrow.

So what is it that you don't give a shit about?

Way back before all the stuff happened with my mom, back when the story Chimes was first published, I promised to have a drawing in which I’d pick someone to receive a free copy of one of my books if they put up a review of the story or a comment about it. I haven’t forgotten. Right now, it appears that the following folk’s names are going into the hat: Rick, Kate S., Randy, Gary at Tainted Archive, Mark, and Clare2e. Thanks very much to them!

However, there were quite a few days when I didn't check the blogosphere so did I miss anyone? If so, let me know, and I will add your name. I'll do the drawing next week some time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In the Memory of Ruins

One of the things I've always enjoyed in fiction is the creation by authors of meta-texts, texts that don't exist but which take on a life of their own and become thought of as real by readers. H. P. Lovecraft's The Necronomicon is perhaps the best know of these creations, but there is also The King in Yellow by Robert Chambers, and The Book of Counted Sorrows by Dean Koontz, and many others.

In Cold in the Light, I tried to create such a meta text. I called it "In the Memory of Ruins." Each chapter of the book starts with a short, five line epigraph, ostensibly from "In the Memory of Ruins." Together these chapter headings tell a story within a story. Put together they reveal a secondary tale that has no direct relationship to the primary one of the novel.

Here's a couple of sample's of "In the Memory of Ruins."

Marble statues lay flat under a sky of bruise-
blue, toppled by one long winter after another.
Even the massive towers bent down their stones,
like shoulders curved by the weight of labors.
There were many places to hide.
--In the Memory of Ruins

On every side of him swirled colorless
petals from dead flowers, their beauty
leached by evil. And he raced among
them unaware, as behind him they grew
black limbs and began to scuttle.
--In the Memory of Ruins

Have you ever done anything like this in your own writing? Do you like this sort of thing? Can you think of other such meta-texts that I haven't mentioned here?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Writing Class, examples

For the last couple of days in my class, Writing in Psychology, we’ve been talking about rewriting. I’ve always enjoyed rewriting myself; sometimes I think I like it better than “writing.” But I notice a real reluctance in many students to rewrite. I believe it stems from a bit of laziness. It was enough work to get the sentence down the first time. Rewriting it is just a bunch more work for little payoff.

Of course, what I tell them, but what they don’t always understand, is that writing and rewriting are really synonymous. It’s not like laying bricks, where you get one down and you don’t want to tear it up again for anything. Words put down in writing are always “approximations.” They’re placeholders, and tearing one up to replace it is part of the process.

One of the things I have my students do during this section of the class is practice rewriting poorly designed sentences and paragraphs. I actually give them examples to rewrite of actual papers handed in for grades to me during previous semesters. Of course, I leave off any identifying names. Here’s some of the ones I’m giving to them today. Except for putting them into quotations, these are reproduced “exactly” as they were first handed in to me in my classes. Are you amazed? Traumatized? I know I was.

1. “When they are hungry or want to be held or need to be clean babies respond in there own way by crying or screeming.”

2. “Lying is also used to conceal real truths,,escape punishment, to save face, and to also shun responsibility.”

3. “Suppression is the avoiding of thoughts that are stressful or negative in some sort of way by substituting them with other thoughts that are not so hurtful to the person.”

4. “Some people can get by one just a few hours sleep while others require eight nine or more.”

5. “Some point in life, an individual face a loss of memory.”

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Gradual Reassertion of Normality

Although my cough lingers and I'm pretty weak, I was able to get back to work yesterday and am in again today. Fortunately, the backlog of work wasn't nearly as bad as I feared it would be. Thus, I've been able to ease my way back a bit, which is extremely nice.

No writing yet, but a friend of mine hooked me up with a guy who is putting on a library conference in New Orleans this June and is looking for SF/Fantasy/Horror writers. I've contacted him and it looks like I'll be invited to attend the conference, although it's still too early for any of the formalities to happen. I did attend the grand opening of the Tale of Two Sisters Bookstore in Clearview Mall in Metairie, last Saturday. I signed for Write With Fire and sold quite a few copies. If you're in the Clearview Mall area, on Veterans, check it out. They have both new and used books. And thanks to Stephan for dropping in to visit with us at the signing. I appreciate it.

While Lana and I were down with the flu, we watched three movies, Law-Abiding Citizen, Surrogates, and Sherlock Holmes. I liked Surrogates the best, and found it to be quite different from the graphic novel it is based on. I liked the setting and characters of Sherlock Holmes but wasn't blown away by the story. Still, it was worth seeing. Law-Abiding Citizen was good but not as strong as I'd hoped. It was, arguably, the most realistic of the three, but that doesn't always work in a movie's favor. The main problem was that the lead character seemed never to establish a solid core to his character. You thought he was one thing, then he became something else. I think there was too much 'reaching' for one liners that actually short-circuited the character's development.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Returning: Part of Me

Thanks so much to everyone here and on Facebook for your kind thoughts and actions. Know that they are appreciated very much. I managed to get some things set up that Monday at school so my students didn’t get two weeks completely off. Still, they have missed some work and I hope I have the energy to get them back to the grind. We were off this past week for Spring break, so now it will be a race to graduation starting this coming Monday (April 5). I am not looking forward to it, since my mind is still not doing a very good job of focusing.

The rosary service and funereal for my mom went as well as could be expected. There were many flowers and plenty of hugs. That did not make them pleasant experiences. But these are things you endure, perhaps the ultimate human activity. I have lots of relatives and many of them I have not seen in years. One thing that happened several times and really didn’t make me feel better was when some relative would corner me and say: “Do you remember who I am?” I really, really didn’t feel like taking a test while I was just trying to get through the day. In at least one case I appear to have insulted someone pretty badly by mistaking a daughter for a much older mother.

Although it has been thirty years since I’ve had the flu, I came down with it right after the funeral. I managed to keep running on adrenaline until I got back home and got some stuff done Saturday. Then I pretty much just collapsed. I’ve never had the flu this bad. The cough eventually turned bacterial so that added to the recovery time. I’m still not feeling really strong but am able to go through most of the motions. I’d better be, because Monday is closing in like a freight train.

I do not know right now what to say about my mom. I feel like she’s still in the act of passing. It isn’t complete for me yet. I’m glad it’s complete for her, though, because she was truly suffering and that is a wound that takes a long time to heal. I will speak for a while about her still in the present tense.

I love you, mom.