Thursday, December 24, 2009

And A Merry Murder to You!

It seems a pity to pass Christmas and enter the New Year without a new post. I am actually in a good mood these days. Enjoying a season I haven't always enjoyed. Relaxing into it.

I recently watched a TV show I hadn't seen before, a repeat of one of those endless crime-solving fiction genre features I used to disdain but have come to love. Two thoughts:

The first has to do with the species itself, in this case the crime-solving genre. I don't even remember the name of the show, but I was amazed, sinking into it, at how immediately pleasurable it was. I knew exactly the format that would be followed.

The murder is shown upfront (I myself prefer that the murder already have been committed and merely discovered in the first scene, as I am so very not into slasher stuff.) Then the detectives/federal agents/cops (all mavericks, of course) step in to solve it. The first suspects investigated almost always turn out to not be the true culprits, frenzied forensics are performed, pieces are puzzled, machinations ensue, bad guys are chased, guns blaze, and the crime is is finally solved via fast action in the last five minutes of the show, When All Is Revealed. The main characters themselves are all of a type that transfer easily from different show to different show, i.e. NCIS, Criminal Minds, Bones, etc. So, turning on something I have never before seen, I see, in effect, something I have already seen many, many times. Which oddly makes me very happy.

I think it is the comfort of repetition, like the child who needs to hear the same story told over and over. An explanation of the unexplainable. In this case, an explanation of death, even though death, of course, is never explainable.

My mother was an avid reader of mysteries. For most of my adult life, I thumbed my nose at them. One reason I thumbed my nose at them was because I was a snob--they weren't literature. The other reason is even more embarrassing than that: I can't follow them! This is never the fault of the novel. No, when I read I seem to have a brain piece missing that simply can't compute the convoluted details of a crime scene and the subsequent investigation. I do sometimes read mysteries written for young adults or children, and I have better luck with them, but even there I sometimes finish the book not really catching the fine details of plot, not knowing without doubt who did what to whom. Embarrassing!

So it is interesting that two years after my mother's death, I am deeply, albeit visually, immersed in mysteries on TV.

My second thought about genre TV has to do with the actors. Watching the above mentioned, title-forgotten piece of crime-solving TV show, I saw a familiar face. Someone who had been prominently featured a few years back on a different kind of TV show --a genre Science Fiction piece--now popping up in a much smaller, probably one-time role on a different show. This happens every so often, that I'll spot a familiar face that almost made it to the "top," then slid back down to the minors.

This, my friends, is exactly what happens to many, if not most, writers. It helps me understand my own career as a writer when I see actors--and these are good actors, not just pretty faces--take whatever role they can get. Only a very few make it to Major Celebrity, People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, Movie Status. Most struggle to land the next part, in whatever show is out there. Because that is what they do and love: act.

Writers write. I am not the first writer to see that glazed look, that expression of dismissal/disappointment/boredom that comes over a person's face when I tell them I'm a published novelist but that a.) I write for teenagers, b.) I'm not rich and c.) I'm not the next J.K. Rowling and will never be. Like some other writers (not all, of course) I often simply don't mention that I am a writer at all. It's just easier that way. But an actor's face is right there! You see it or you don't. They are getting parts or not, they are featured or not. And the proof of success or failure is on display for everyone to see. Ouch.

So while I don't always admit I am a writer, I am often glad I am not an actor. Writers can hide all the complications, twists, turn-arounds, stumbles and out-right failures a little bit better. Which helps.

And so, perched on the verge of a new year, about to venture into the fresh territory ahead, I wish all writers and actors--and everyone else--magnificent success. But if success doesn't find you, I wish you small, safe, and private stumbles.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I've stayed away because I haven't had anything to say. Head full of cement. Emotions as tightly packed as a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans. Depressed, anxious, worried: check, check, check. The usual, then. Been there, done that. Here it comes again.

I am thinking of construction and deconstruction. So much of life is just that. Doing what needs to be done, then taking it all apart to do it once more. Things as simple as getting up in the morning to go to work, then coming home and letting it all wash from your body. And getting up the next day, still weary, to start over. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am tired of all that. Tired and tired and tired.

I am also working on a manuscript that is not where I thought it was, that is in fact very far away from where I thought it was. So here it is: construct, deconstruct, construct. Again and again.

But I am tired of all that. Tired and tired and tired.

So what will give me the energy and will that I need to move forward? On this gray afternoon, I don't see much. Just an ongoing landscape of lonely work that never quite reaches completion, for which there is little reward.

Pretty drab and miserable, eh? Well, folks, that's why I haven't been posting. I want to begin anew, though. Somehow find, once more, the pulse and the push that I need.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chirp Chirp!

Note: I never posted the following post, which I wrote in October, so I'm posting it now, in November. (Post, posting, posted.)

I am in a twisted sort of place of late as a writer. No publication dates before me, though I do have hope. (Springs eternal, etc.) Wrestling with a new manuscript that still needs substantial work. So, no glitter, no glory. I believe in the future writers like me will become extinct, because we are not chirpy.

Some form of bright-eyed chirpiness is the necessary gene in today's market. It is certainly necessary for a blog, and, as we already know, dear reader, I do not chirp. My parents never apologized for this woeful lack, for their failure to transmit chirp. Tsk.

I have gnashed my teeth about this before on this blog. Indeed, it might seem it is all I do. That's because of the twisty sort of place I am in. Like being a kebab over the charcoal briquettes. What else is there to do but twist and burn and complain? The unchirp.

In the interest of writing about something else, I have decided to list a number of books I have read over the previous several months that I found especially compelling. Most of them are young adult titles, a couple are children's, one is adult. (I actually read more than these titles, but not all of them made my personal Go! list. Also, there are a lot of new books I have not yet had access to; some of those might appear on a later list, at another point when I am still not chirpy.) I love some of these books more than others, but I enjoyed them all. In no particular order, here goes:

Crossing Paradise - Kevin Crossley-Holland
What I Saw and How I Lied -- Judy Blundell
Jellico Road - Melina Marchetta
The Underneath - Kathi Appelt
Nation - Terry Pratchett
Black Rabbit Summer - Kevin Brooks
Hush - Donna Jo Napoli
Breath - Donna Jo Napoli
Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness
The London Eye Mystery - Siobhan Down
Creature of the Night - Kate Thompson
One Lonely Degree - C. K. Kelly Martin
Carbon Diaries - Saci Lloyd
Mothstorm - Philip Reeve
Here Lies Arthur - Philip Reeve
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Peril On the Sea - Michael Cadnum
Marcello in the Real World - Francisco X. Stork
The Brothers Story - Katherine Sturtevant
Reality Check - Peter Abrahams
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski

finis, for now

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Live Over There

There are times when a writer just plain has to fess up to her darker side. When what is real burns painfully in your gut like a blazing fire that won't go out. When the ordinary is swept aside by the deep urge to confess and be made clean. This, dear reader, is one of those times.

I know, I know . . . Many will shout, "Stop! Don't! Think of what you are doing! Let what happens in your psyche stay in your psyche!" I have considered the warnings. I know I might lose friends. I might lose readers. As for my family . . . well, don't we all, in the end, disappoint one another with our human frailties?

They say the truth will set you free. (It will probably also kill you first, but whatever.) Therefore, dark heart, beat on. Tell what needs to be told.

I cannot deny it. It is thus: I am deeply, totally, irrevocably addicted--to NCIS.

I have tried to stop watching it. I have vowed to shun USA, the channel of re-runs. I have shrieked that it is merely fantasy, that none of the characters are real. I have said, "See, you were disappointed with the opening show of the new season. It is time to leave!" I have done all that, and still I flip on channel 47 every night, praying for an episode I haven't yet seen, falling into blissful contentedness with the ones I already have. I am hooked, oh yes, I am indeed.

I have sometimes believed I am a writer because characters live in my head. Also, thoughts, flights of fancy, and observations. But it is the characters who scream to get out. And so I let them out, on the page.

With TV, the characters walk into my head. They are not my own creation, and yet they live, deeply, in my mind and heart. It is as if they clasp my brain synapses and vow to stay forever. And I believe it, every time.

I think there are some of us, readers and writers and viewers, who, much like a frog jumping from lily pad to lily pad, live by leaping from story to story. It is how we survive what is always a complicated life. So I am inclined to forgive my addiction. I am, after all, only human, only frog.

So when you see me standing in front of you, yes, I am present in my corporeal form. But I live over there.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lies, Lies, and More Lies

So I start Shy Oyster then walk away for a week? Is that the way it's going to be? And here I promised to be faithful. Sheesh. Lies, lies, nothing but lies.

And the time at the bottom of my posts? Confirmed, as before: lies, lies, lies.

And the assurance from everyone that setting up my DSL connection would be a breeze? Yup, the Big L. (It's been three years, but I'm still mad about that one. Life as a non-techie is hard. Do you hear me? HARD.)

Here, though, in the spirit of equal opportunity, is the opposite of a lie:

This morning I drove to the grocery store, only about three quarters of a mile away. As I'm tootling down the road, I glance at the left front of my hood and see: a praying mantis! Hanging on for dear life!

Well, methought, if I don't try to save the little critter, I will have to tell a LIE about my heartlessness, and, upon relating the tale, will have to shrug and fib, "I really wanted to help him, but there was nothing I could do. The guy had road kill written all over his forehead."

Actually, there wasn't much I could do, as stopping in the middle of a busy highway is generally bad mojo. So I slowed a bit and drove cautiously to the store. The critter, I have to say, looked relieved when I pulled into the parking lot.

I deliberately chose a spot far away from the maddening crowd, next to some shrubs and small trees. There, I thought, I shall flick him away, all for his own good.

Of course, the little beggar immediately dove under my windshield wiper into a dip, right in the middle of the car where I couldn't reach and couldn't have extracted him even if I could reach.

"Okay," I said. "You better be gone before I get back, or it's curtains for you on the ride home."

When I returned, having been relieved of most of my money in exchange for a few paltry goods, I was pleased to see that he had taken at least some of my advice, having decamped from the windshield wiper/dip and moseyed around to the rear passenger door, next to the bushes. I believe I saw him lift his head and sniff appreciatively.

Except he wouldn't budge. I had to resort to using a coupon to first nudge, then forcefully flick him off altogether into the greenery. I am hopeful that he is safe in his new home. At least until his wife shows up and eats him for dinner . . . Yikes.

All that is to demonstrate that while I am not sparkly, I did once save a praying mantis. So that's something.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Time Is It?

One of the problems with moving into new digs is figuring out where to put everything. The book case over there . . . no! Put it here . . . Nope, doesn't fit. Try against that other wall . . .

So things are still a bit out of sorts here. For one thing, I just discovered that the times given for my postings are wrong. No way will I ever be posting at 6:40 AM. You see that, you know it's a lie. I might be awake, up and moving at 6:40 AM--in fact, I will be--but posting, no. The brain cells are still sitting around in their pajamas, disorganized, grumpy, and looking for a cup of tea.

But moving on . . .

I did not opt out of the Google Settlement. How odd, I think, that so much of a writer's life rests in other peoples and other corporations hands. Their business plays, their ideas, good or bad. But no one ever said my own hands were capable of too much, so maybe I shouldn't complain. And it was my idea to be a writer, so there you have it. Still . . .

I am afraid of my revision. The one that's a big, fat mess. Another revision on another book might be needed, but on that one I feel capable. This monster I have created, though . . . yikes. It might be DOA.

You could say I've unpacked it, but it is still buried underneath all the boxes in my new digs. I'll find it eventually, but I'm sorta not sure what I want to do. Work on it, or pitch it out in the dumpster with the rest of the packing materials? Decisions, decisions . . .

Okay, we shall see what time gets posted for this little wordlet game. My computer says 10:56 AM. Here we go!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Uh . . .

I miss Fusty. Shy Oyster, who are you? I thought I knew you. You even made some appearances on my Face Book page. But now that we're sitting here, nose to nose, my mind is blank, I don't know what to say, and my face is plastered with a fake, nervous smile. (For anyone who should ever happen upon me in person, this is how I act with everyone. Don't take it personally.)

Shy Oyster, I thought we were the same. I found you over the summer and instantly felt we were a kind of you/me sandwich, though it could be argued which was the bread and who was the cheese, and, getting down to details, who brought the lettuce and the mayo.

But now I that I am actually here, now that we are actually together, I am looking at a stranger.

In truth, Fusty was also a stranger at first. Over time, we became friendly. And then we became partners. Now I feel I have deceived Fusty and taken up with a flouncy wench. O, the guilt: I haz it.

So maybe I should ask, Fusty, who are *you*? You were me, I suppose, and in truth I was having some problems with me. And I worried about your name. Fusty. What's that? Someone who's very old, probably. I didn't want that to be me, even though it was. I guess I thought a geographic cure would help.

"Shy oyster" is actually a pretty good description of me. Anyone who knows me will at some point conclude, "That Kathleen, she's a shy oyster." Meaning shy, but also meaning closed for business. Depending on their level of politeness, they might leave out the part about how infuriating and irritating that often is for them.

Fusty, however, was, or became, the more outspoken part I could occasionally tap into. Outspoken, or just plain spoken, can be a good thing. Still, most often I am, uh, a shy oyster, silent, my shell closed tight.

I will have to see where Shy Oyster leads me. I have a feeling Fusty just might tag along. I hope so. Of the many things that are true this particular Sunday morning, one of them is that I miss Fusty.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Begin the Beguine

After a summer break from Fusty, I have decided to make my reappearance in a new plot, er, spot.

In truth, it was not a summer break so much as a summer breakdown. Breakdown not as in crazy-bonkers but as in too damn bloody depressed to post anything. I have to say, it was pretty pathetic and boring. Plus my fingers are all out of shape

But you know, sometimes stuff just happens.

So although I feel a little wobbly on my blog-feet, I am hopeful I can re-engage. Writing is what I do, after all.

I am about to embark on the revision of a great big mess of a manuscript. Fun! I don't quite see my way in yet, but some things are beginning to become clear, the way light filtering through leaves both reveals and hides what is there. So wish me luck. There is always the possibility of a an end game at the manuscript funeral parlor, but I will do my Frankenstein best to spark new life into my book.

Spark! Spark!