Friday, July 30, 2010

Present tense is an abomination. Mostly.

Over at Sterling Editing we have our usual links of interest to emerging writers. This week I think my favourite is Moonrat's disquisition on present tense. I don't know what happened a couple of years ago but these days it seems fashionable for beginners, especially in the YA and literary genres (oh, yes, litfic is a genre), to write their first novel in present tense. They are setting themselves up for a very hard time. Present tense is devilishly difficult. Present tense does not make the text more immediate--just the opposite, in fact. Present tense is the language of dreams and jokes, not realistic fiction. So do yourself a favour, use simple perfect instead.

Yes, I used present tense in one of Slow River's narrative strands. I did it to a purpose. (Which I think worked pretty well--hey, I never promised you modesty.) Yes, Hilary Mantel used present tense for Wolf Hall but, again, she used it to a purpose, and she's, y'know, Hilary Mantel.

If you don't understand tense, here's a handy page that will lay it all out for you. Go learn something.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Live in LA? Want access to private queer writers' evening in return for one airport pickup on Sunday Aug 8th?

On Tuesday, 10th August the faculty of the LLF Emerging Voices Retreat (me, Ellery Washington, Ellen Bass) are doing a special reading and ho-holds-barred Q&A session for the Writing Fellows. You could be there, too--mingle with this small group--if you're willing to pick up a couple of people from the LA airport on Sunday 8th August and drive them to Bel Air.

Who will you be picking up? Me and Kelley. We're pleasant passengers (though we will be stunned by hours of travel) and you would have our gratitude. Plus, y'know, access to the coolest private queer lit evening eva!

So if you live in LA, are free for a couple of hours the afternoon of August 8th, and have a car that can fit two people and their luggage, give me a shout. Please save us from the horror of cabs and airport shuttles!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sucker Punch


Ah, I'd like to watch this right now. I'm just in the mood. Music and action from Zack Snyder, the director of 300 and Watchmen. (Thanks, Dianne.)

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The people I'll be teaching next month

Next month I'll be leading a week-long fiction workshop for the Lambda Literary Foundation's Emerging Voices Retreat. Here are the people I'll be teaching:

FICTION CLASS


Monica Carter

Monica Carter, a 2010 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow, has been published in Black Clock #12 and Pale House II. She is working on her novel, Eating the Apple, set in 1930’s Manhattan which tells the story of an aging, alcoholic lesbian writer caught in a love triangle.
Traci Castleberry

Traci Castleberry lives in Tucson with her Lipizzan mare Carrma and writes M/M romance as Nica Berry. She’s writing a fantasy novel set in Edo-era Japan in which a female role-actor with multiple personalities falls in love with a healer who possesses a power society doesn’t want him to have.
Marisela Chavez

Marisela Chavez works as a Writing Specialist at the San Antonio Community College Writing Center and as a freelance writer and editor. Currently, Chavez is working on a novel set in New Mexico, her home state. She lives in San Antonio with her partner Sarah.

Dario Dalla Lasta

Dario Dalla Lasta (aka DJ Dario Speedwagon) spins for queers all over New York City and also performs legal work for Broadway shows. He self-published the erotic novel The Three Red Lines last year and is working on a second book with a sci-fi bent entitled The Force of Destiny.
Chuck Forester

Chuck Forester, returning LLF Retreat Fellow. Chuck is a Wisconsin raised, East Coast educated, San Francisco resident since 1971. He’s a writer, poet, memoirist and novelist. Active in local and national GLBT community, Chuck has bee partnered five years with John Cadle.
Liz Demi Green

Liz Demi Green is a writer, performer, and community college educator based in Oakland, California. A graduate of Vassar and Mills, she is a playwright, a poetry slam champion, and a prose stylist. She is at work on her first novel, The Ella Verse (LGBT Young Adult SciFi).
Mark Hardy

Mark Hardy’s debut novel, Nothing Pink, is on the American Library Association’s 2009 Rainbow List and currently being adapted for the stage. After years of work in New York City Public Schools, Mark now teaches second grade in North Carolina.
Billie Mandel

Billie Mandel is a fire-breathing femme novelist, transported half a lifetime ago from New York to the Bay Area. Excerpts from her novel-in-progress, tentatively titled The Possibility, have been previewed at the National Queer Arts Festival, Ladyfest Litfest, and SFinX.
Jarrett Neal

Jarrett Neal earned an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in English from Northwestern University. A writer of fiction, poetry, essays and screenplays, he has just completed his first novel, A Dangerous Man. He lives in Oak Park, IL.
Eric Nguyen

Eric Nguyen is a writer from Maryland. He is currently working on a short story collection.
Steven Tagle

Steven Tagle is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker. He has been published in Spork and The Rumpus, and his documentaries have aired on Current TV. He is currently finishing his first novel, a coming-of-age story about a high school shapeshifter.
Brandy T. Wilson

Dr. Brandy T. Wilson was a fiction finalist for the 2007 Astraea Lesbian Writers Award. Her work has been featured in Ninth Letter and From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction. She lives in North Dakota with her partner and is completing her first novel.

Why am I telling you all this? So that you can help, of course.

This economy sucks. It's especially tough on artists. You can double that trouble for emerging artists. Triple it for emerging queer artists. It's hard to believe in yourself and your work when you don't, quite, have enough money to cover bills. When you're living in isolation. When you're committed to writing and you're writing night and day and all your friends are saying, "So why isn't your book in Barnes and Noble yet?" And if your laptop or your car breaks down, you're screwed. Than along comes this once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend a week with people just like you--queer writers figuring out how to make it work, somehow--a chance to learn and to build community for a lifetime. Only there's time off work to be covered, and travel, and food, and the cost of a room...and suddenly you don't know if it's possible.

These writers are paying as much as they can. LLF has persuaded Amazon.com to help with a generous grant. The rest is up to the queer community and to the writing community. Five years from now, ten years from now, do you want new voices telling you new stories? Do you want to pick up a novel and fall into it, to see your life differently, just for a little while? Do you want to know you've helped a new generation bring their fresh perspective to the world?

Then contribute to LLF's scholarship fund: $5, $50, $500, it's all good. And remember there are poetry fellows and non-fiction fellows to support, too: thirty-three Emerging Voices getting ready to speak their truth. Look at their faces. We all need what they have to say. Please help.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Health update

Because, y'know, news about one woman's mild summer virus is vital to the nation's well-being. Or so you'd think judging by the questions coming my way.

So, here it is: I'm feeling better--at least my throat is. I've moved into the cough-at-anything-that-moves stage. I'm not getting much done--but, hey, that's okay. I'll just drowse in the sun and read my crappy free Kindle books and occasionally fuss over the perbs.

Speaking of which, here's another gratuitous perb shot:

(Yeah, it's blurred. That's what happens when you try take pictures while coughing.)

I don't think the dill is a herb at all. I think it's a magic beanstalk. We keep cutting it down and using it (works brilliantly in potato salad) and it keeps aiming for the sky. The basil is just so good it makes me laugh with delight (I'm stunned by the difference in makes in tomato soup, especially with a slosh of cream), as is the marjoram and thyme. And the sage is aromatic deliciousness. The mint, though--well, we bought the wrong kind. It'll work as an ornamental ground cover but as a foodstuff, not so much. And the parsley, I dunno. Oh, it tastes fine, but the lower leaves keep turning yellow. Not sure what the problem is. Anyone out there know?

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pitiful and needing Kindle suggestions

Somehow in the last two or three days I have acquired one of those vile throat viruses that make me feel as though evil gnomes have carefully sanded my pharynx overnight and are steadily working their way down. (Clearly they're not English gnomes, who would down tools every few hours for a good chin wag and a pint of tea. These are industrious little suckers.) Everything feels raw and swollen. Swallowing hurts. Talking hurts. Even smiling bravely hurts--which I do a lot, because then I get fussed over with weak tea and luscious soft fruits and delicately poached salmon. (Nope, my appetite isn't affected. That takes more than a few runty little gnomes.)

But here's the cruelest cut of all: I can't eat chocolate! Tuh.

So I'm pissed off. My toe has just about recovered, and I'm ready to exercise, stretch out, rebuild some strength--and now this reduction to viral puddletude. I have so much to do but have to settle for huddling in a corner cradling my thumping head and looking pitiful.

My solution: load up Kindle with free books--seriously crappy offerings for seriously compromised minds. First up: Sidney Sheldon. (Dear god that man wrote some rubbish.) I expect I'll be done with it by this afternoon, so I need to find something else. Riproaring reads that are either free or seriously inexpensive (less than $2) because the kind of thing that will make sense to me right now isn't worth more than that.

Any suggestions? I'll read anything from shopping-and-fucking (Judith Krantz!) to sword-and-pony (where's the next George RR Martin, anyway?) to ticking-clock-thriller to angsty-lesbian-lurve to noble-historical to YA-chosen-one to gunslingers-at-noon. It's just got to have a story that clips right along.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Wall Street Journal reviews "It Takes Two"

Well, okay, they (in the form of Martin Morse Wooster) actually review Dozois' Year's Best SF, but they talk about me:

Most science-fiction fans give up on the effort to keep pace and turn to anthologies instead. Gardner Dozois's long-running "best of" series is rightly a favorite. This year's version includes more than 300,000 words and draws from a variety of sources, including a recent collection of stories that rework H.P. Lovecraft's masterly tropes and themes. But "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Seventh Annual Collection," for all its bulk, is charmingly eclectic more than portentously comprehensive. Consider two stories that Mr. Dozois has placed next to each other in his anthology: "Paradiso Lost" by Albert E. Cowdrey and "It Takes Two" by Nicola Griffith.

Mr. Cowdrey's novella is a traditional military science-fiction story: hard men on rough planets. Ms. Griffith's novelette "It Takes Two" is, for its first half, the tale of a female vice president of a software company falling in love with a female lap dancer. Mr. Cowdrey's readers and Ms. Griffith's are probably two distinct groups, but the stories are more similar than one might expect.

Mr. Cowdrey delivers all the battle action one would want, but he is far more concerned with the struggle his hero faces when he receives orders from his superior officers that seem aimed at genocide. As for Ms. Griffith's storyline, it turns out that her heroine's erotic urge is not what it seems: She has been drugged and set up by her company's higher-ups, who engineer her affair as an illicit experiment. Both Mr. Cowdrey and Ms. Griffith ultimately ask the same question: How much control should our bosses have over us?

It helps that both stories are neatly constructed, intellectually challenging and smoothly written.

[...]

Only in an alternative reality would an anthology please every one of its readers, and surely "The Year's Best Science Fiction" will inspire disapproval as well as assent. But it is as good as the real world allows for now—a wide-ranging sampler for enthusiasts eager to catch up on their favorite genre and a good introduction for fiction lovers who are tired of reading precious short stories about paint drying in Connecticut.

So let's pause and say 'Yay!' for WSJ and Mr Wooster--with whom I agree wholeheartedly regarding precious stories about paint drying. (And let's say 'Yay!' for Gardner's Year's Best. And 'Yay!' to David Pringle for the heads-up.)

Makes a nice change from being called 'a kook' on their front page...

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In which I learn sabre

Yesterday, I got schooled by an expert sabreuse. I'm still blinking.

I've always loved the notion of fencing, but when I was fit I never had the opportunity to learn and since I've had the opportunity I've also had MS. So, eh, it's one of those things I'd consigned to the Not in This Lifetime category. But I do occasionally opine online about my affinity for sword-and-pony fiction, and how one day I seriously wouldn't mind being Sir Nicola.

And it turns out that one of our new friends, Angélique, is, as I say, an expert--she learnt sabre as a child, with a real sabre--actually a collection of them. She pointed out that sabre is a rider's weapon. That is, it's designed to be used from a seated position. So I could learn to use a sabre without relying on my legs.

I beamed. Angélique, bless her, lugged a huge collection of gear cross-country, to teach me safely.

First, there's the chest protector. Then the plastron. Then the thick, padded jacket. (Both the latter made of ballistic material designed to prevent serious injury and, y'know, death.) Then the glove. (We didn't bother with breeches or shoes.)

By this time, I'm feeling like Zorro:

Angélique, being smart, wanted me to imagine some stuff before actually giving me a pointy thing. So now she's explaining how one holds the sabre: pinching the hilt between thumb and index finger. (Yep, it's sunny. Yep, it's beginning to get warm in all that gear. Yep, that's a bit of tape from the plastron dangling down from underneath my jacket.)

Then it was time to get really geared up: the mask. Those things are heavy. And hot. And you're supposed to put them on using only one hand (because you have a sabre in the other). And that's very heavy mesh. It really limits visibility. And it feels shockingly claustrophobic. But, wow, who cares--because now I get to hold the shiny sabre!

So, En garde! and Allez!

And within ten seconds I'm dead, oof:

Touché. Plus, I've also cluelessly pranged my opponent in an illegal target zone, the leg. (Sorry, Angélique!)

We did this for about an hour and a half. It was enormous fun. I'm hoping to do it again. This time I'll figure out this right of way thing. And remember to riposte instantly.

My biggest problem was that I treated fencing like chi sao. In chi sao, you maintain constant contact, always feeling the intent of your opponent, feeling shifts in their centre of gravity, through their skin. I tried to do the same with the blade--but that's absolutely the wrong way to approach sabre. When fencing it's all about the disengage, the fake tell/feint, and then you can't just swing and stab you have to take turns to attack, parry, riposte. It's like chess or maybe poker (no pun intended) with swords. I couldn't get the hang of the rhythm. But, oh, next time...

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Saturday, July 17, 2010

This weekend

This weekend I'll be busy going to parties and building a workshop, so I won't be around much. To keep you amused, here's a map of the creative process, scenic route. Don't get lost.

And if that's not enough, there are other nifty links for writers over at Sterling Editing. Have fun.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Argentina gets it, Brazil is having fun, and the US...

Argentina just made same-sex marriage legal. The Brazilians are having a blast (watch this video of Rodrigo and Gustavo dancing the tango--via Jes Battis).

And what's the US doing? Push surveys designed to ratchet up homophobia in the military. Yay us.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Busy busy busy

Lots to do today so I'm away from the keyboard. Have fun in the sun. Eat something fresh and luscious. Read something good.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bookcase lust

Photo: Pasi Aalto / pasiaalto.com

The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is running 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces, including The Ark, a bookshelf/bookcase/palace/retreat by Rintala Eggertsson Architects. A kind of bookshelf tree house. I'd love to get inside it. (Via.)

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

P.D. James, on writing

P.D. James (courtesy of the Telegraph) says it all, beautifully:

I'd expand on her notion of sensitivity to words: a writer needs to read. A novelist needs to read read novels. Good ones. Every day. You can't write if you don't read.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Beautiful things

A few days ago I read that an Italian scholar thinks he's found a new Michelangelo sculpture--that is, rediscovered an old one. I looked at the picture and thought, Eh, okay, very nice:

But then I saw a close-up which made me sit up:

This is stone, and the sculptor has made it look like skin and muscle and bone. I am astonished. I want it.

I love sculpture, but I've never been able to afford it. Years ago, I came across a lovely squat little carving of two people entwined in a dance--at the Frick? the Henry? somewhere local--and I saw it in my mind's eye for weeks afterwards. Similarly, the first time I saw a Butterfield horse--life-size bronze made to look like driftwood--I lusted after it. But sculpture, good sculpture, is mind-bogglingly expensive. (I think those Butterfields go for about half a million now--though when I saw them it was only--only!--about $20,000. I'm guessing: even then it was way outside my price range so I wasn't really paying attention.)

Why am I thinking about all this today? I went out onto the deck to footle about with my Perbs and was struck by how delicious the morning is: damp, grey, cool, absolutely alive, smelling of dirt and breathing leaves. A bird swooped right by my ear. (Birds use the gravelled walkway by the back fence as a kind of protected flight path to the ravine: Bird Alley. In the evenings, it's Beast Alley: raccoons, marmots, cats...) Today I feel graced by the world, very happy.

Oh, and here's another gratuitous Perb shot. They're growing...

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Coffee cans and solder: one solution

We have terrible cell reception at our house: bottom of a hill, edge of a ravine. It's just not happening. So I wasted some time yesterday (I forgot to enable Freedom--dumb) fossicking about for solutions.

It comes down to two basic choices, spend money on this:

Or have fun making one of these:



As you know, I have MacGyver tendencies. Sadly, I'm also the laziest person I know. Decisions, decisions. I guess we could always move. Or, hey, just do what we've been doing, which is shrug and smile and tell the world: we never answer the phone...

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Random garden fact

The scent of jasmine from Gardenia jasminoides is as strong as Valium (thanks, Cindy). And, although you wouldn't think Gardenia would grow well here in the PNW, apparently there is a variety that can survive our odd summers.

Guess what I'll be growing next year?

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Noam Chomsky was wrong (and other science-of-writing tidbits)

If researchers at Northumbria University are right, Noam Chomsky was wrong when he declared that everyone in a linguistic community shares the same grammar.

Research into grammar by academics at Northumbria University suggests that a significant proportion of native English speakers are unable to understand some basic sentences.

The findings--which undermine the assumption that all speakers have a core ability to use grammatical cues--could have significant implications for education, communication and linguistic theory.

The research, conducted by Dr Ewa Dabrowska, showed that basic elements of core English grammar had not been mastered by some native speakers.

It seems to me it would be fairer to say that people don't always understand bad grammar--because it's, y'know, bad. Or perhaps that passive construction, in particular, is often found to be incomprehensible. At least now there's science explaining why it's bad bad bad (and wicked and wrong) for passive construction in fiction to be used. (You have no idea how much it hurt to write that paragraph. Only for you, Dear Reader...)

I also came across this nifty explanation for why sensory metaphors really, really matter:

...our use of tactile concepts in metaphors that relate to behaviour, such as having a "rough" day or being "solid" as a rock, might influence our judgement: touching similar textures reminds us of their linguistic links to behaviour.

One day, when I have time, I'll pull together all the posts I've done on writing science: mirror neurons, present tense, first person and more. For now, feel free to use the search function and discover just how sad my tagging skills are. Must improve.

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

The future of queer publishing

Over at LambdaLiterary there are four video clips of a recent panel held in West Hollywood, The Future of Queer Publishing. The panelists, Bronwyn Mauldin, Nick Nolan, Terry Wolverton and Steve Soucy, moderated by LLF's own Tony Valenzuela, come from a variety of backgrounds and perspectives. I wish I'd been there, because I wanted someone to integrate these disparate perspectives, but the video is well worth watching.

Take a look. Tell me what you think.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The green, green things of home...

I promised some time ago to post photos of the garden. (Waving to Maureen.) Today has been the first sunny day, so I took the opportunity. Unfortunately, my camera broke. More precisely, it locked itself in some bizarre fashion so there's now only a few bytes of space on the memory card--enough for about 3 pictures.

Undeterred, I switched to another camera--new to me, and much fancier. And of course fucked everything up royally--all wrong exposure, managed to turn off the LCD view screen, kept pressing the wrong buttons, etc. etc. But, for you dear readers, I struggled on fearlessly. The result is this rather, ah, random assortment of photos of various bits of my garden.

Let's start with a shot from what I rather grandly call the North Garden, which is basically a path around the north side of the house, planted with all kinds of things I can't identify, including what looks like a giant mutant lavender bush. It smells like Paradise. That tree by the gate is a lilac.

This is a shot from the other end of the house, a view of our south-east side taken from the commons that lead down into the ravine.

This, on the other hand, is the view from the path leading to the North Garden, shot across our front lawn to the driveway, which is just beyond the so-rustic (i.e. dilapidated) fence.

Another shot of the North Garden, this time from the gate and back along the path. I love this place. It's the coolest place to hang out during a hot afternoon.

A view of our NE corner, leading to the wee North Garden (which, remember, is basically just a path between our house and the neighbour's barn).

This is a picture of part of the back garden. The back garden is ruthlessly monochrome: green only. Well, okay, and wood. But that's it. All very zen. Ish. Kind of.

A picture of our front roses and our doughty 1992 Paseo--the very first car I bought. Damn that car made me feel cool...

Random shot of some flowering thing (guesses on a postcard...) in the bed running opposite our front door.

More of the exclusive greens-only club area.

Oh, and one more of those because, y'know, it's right here.


Finally, a gratutious Perb shot:


The eagle-eyed among you will see that there are now two parsley plants. Why? Dunno. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

So that's it. You now know I take terrible photos and that our garden is in serious need of a trim. Also, seeing as I'm typing this at 3.27 a.m., that I'm not getting enough sleep.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Year's Best

Releasing today, and completing this year's I'm-not-on-the-cover trifecta, Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenety-seventh annual collection.

Here's the PW blurb:

Continuing the annual tradition, award-winning editor Dozois selects 32 of 2009's strongest short fiction pieces from print and online venues. The authors of these stories are almost all experienced and prolific, with many award winners and few surprise newcomers to be found. The offerings run the gamut of science fiction: for example, Nicola Griffith's "It Takes Two" explores love through chemical attraction, John Barnes's "Things Undone" is a time-blurring exploration of alternate history, and John Kessel's "Events Preceding the Helvetican Renaissance" is a far-future adventure. This smorgasbord of thought-provoking fiction ensures that any reader will likely find something appealing. Rounding out the collection is Dozois's writeup of all things 2009 SF: fiction, nonfiction, media, awards, and obituaries.

If you're curious, the other anthologies I'm in this year and also not gracing the cover are Jonathan Strahan's The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year Volume 4, and James Sutter's Before They Were Giants (though that cover is, frankly, so--well, you have to see it to believe it, but think Verhoeven's Starship Troopers Brain Bugs--that it's a relief not being on it).

So if you add Strahan's Eclipse 3 late last year, I'm 0 for 4 in the cover stakes in the last twelve months. A new record. On the plus side, hey, I'm still breaking records...

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Fruit, fruit, more fruit--and c-r-e-a-m....

I spent most of yesterday eating. Nectarines, cherries, raspberries, all with lashings of thick thick thick fresh fresh fresh cream. I just ate the last of the raspberries and cream for breakfast. I feel as happy and slitty-eyed as a cat.

I also spent a fair bit of the day yesterday waiting (in vain) for some sunshine to go take garden pix as promised. No sun, so no pix. But the sun is coming, oh yes it yes. Look at this forecast:

Yesterday, in honour of the holiday (and because between the live band up the street and the fools trying to blow the neighbourhood up with firewords and the dogs barking desperately at everyone to shut the fuck up I couldn't hear myself think), I read a whole novel, start to finish, in one go. A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. It was a nicely written, very soothing turn-of-the-century historical set in the North Woods of upper New York State (1905 if a novel I saw referenced is anything to go by). The young woman escapes her gendered destiny as a farmwife and escapes to New York City--where we just know she'll grow up to be a brilliant writer. I imagine that teenage girls who keep heartfelt journals would fall hopelessly in love with this book. As I've essentially read this story a thousand times I merely liked it. If you're looking for a very competent read, with no shocks but one or two gentle surprises, set mostly in the outdoors in spring and summer, I can recommend it.

Now I'm going to get back waiting for the weather forecast to come true. And work on Hild. And ponder this workshop I'll be teaching in Los Angeles in August.

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Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy weekend

I have Hild to attend to, and a whole stack of True Blood Season 2 DVDs to watch, so I won't be around much this weekend.

I'll be back on Monday--hopefully with photos of never-before-seen bits of our garden. Assuming I can gimp out there with this broken toe. Mutter mutter. (Such a tiny toe, such a big ache, such a clumsy user. All my own fault. I think I might have to go strangle a stranger, preferably one holding a bottle rocket...)

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Mostly trundling along

Not a massive amount to report today. The weather is really sucking, but that's (mostly) fine with me. I'm working like a (happy) dog on Hild. 130k words and counting. It's going to be a l-o-o-o-n-g first draft. (180K? Not sure. All I know is it's got to be done by my birthday.) I'm poised--literally the next paragraph--to write the iconic 'think of a sparrow flying through the hall' bit from Bede (HE, II.13). Hild, however, will not be impressed.

My perbs are (mostly) doing okay, though I've spent less time fussing over them since I broke my toe. (The toe aches, tuh.) The dill is getting positively spindly. We're experimenting with the taste of various herbaliciousnesses. Last night it was a chicken casserole with sage and thyme. Oddly, it occurred to me that cashews would work in the mix.

I've adjusted (mostly) to the new painting. But I still smile like a fool when I contemplate the room.

Over at Sterling Editing we have our weekly list of links for writers, including the Ten Commandments and how to maximise your video presence (with nifty video, of course).

Basically, life is trundling along. I just hope the sun comes out and people in the neighbourhood keep their fireworks in the scabbard until Sunday. I hope the caterwauling in the ravine stops soon. (Some cat in heat--must have read yesterday's rant.) I hope you're all planning the kind of Friday that will please you inordinately. Especially to Anne and to Larry: happy birthday!

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Good sex: a rant

I read a review of "It Takes Two" yesterday (by someone I don't know called Ryan), which runs, in part:

I liked the prose in general, but there are a few descriptive passages that feel like generic erotica (i.e., the sex has to be super-awesome and mind blowing). I’m not sure this sort of idealized fantasy sexuality has any place in a story that wants to examine human relationships in a serious way.
This is not the first time, or even the hundred-and-first time, a reviewer has said that the kind of sex I write is fantastical in the unrealistic sense.

A few years ago I was on a panel with two or three other writers and the talk turned to sex in literature. It turned out everyone on the panel (except me) thought all fictional depictions of people having good sex were ridiculous because sex was never, ever super-awesome and mind blowing. No, they said, sex was comical and self-conscious; sex was fumbling and clumsy; sex was embarrassing. Sex, everyone (except me) agreed, never went right the first time, so why did writers insist on writing as though it did?

I didn't say much on that panel because I was shocked by the notion that so many people thought and felt this way. I'm older now. I've heard this supposition many times. I'm tired of it.

In my experience, sex really is super-awesome and mind blowing. It really is astonishing, transporting, and ecstatic. It really is the closest thing on this earth that we'll come to swimming in a tide of light and magic. If it's not that way for you, maybe you're doing it wrong.

I understand you might not agree, that this might not be your experience. But it is mine. The very first time I got completely naked with a woman and had sex it wasn't miserable or difficult or tense. It was better than anything I could possibly have imagined. Better than anything I've ever read in a book. I write about the best sex possible and, frankly, it doesn't come close to the tearing brilliance of the real thing.

Yes, sex can be bad (and I've written about that, too) but that just makes it bad sex, the same way having a bad job is just having a bad job. Does that mean there's no such thing as a great job, or that anyone who writes about someone having a great job (or drinking the perfect glass of wine, or weeping at an uplifting piece of music) is writing idealised fantasy?

Sex is about the body. A by-product of our bodily design is the urge to seek out and luxuriate in the things that are good for us: sex and sunshine, food and cool, clean water. These things of the body--the seeking and finding and satiating, then the weighing of same--are exactly the lenses through which I want to examine the human animal.

So don't tell me my experience isn't valid, don't tell me great sex isn't a worthy subject for serious literature. Get over your Puritanical dualist crap and admit the world is a big place, full of difference. Open your arms to it, feel it on your skin.

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