Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Sittin’ on the Fence

Lately I haven’t been writing, for a variety of reasons.  In the interim I have been pitching some of my work to agents and publishers and hoping for anything to stick.  In the beginning writing was a way to challenge myself, to see if I could actually do it.  Then it turned into crafting stories that I enjoyed reading.  Just because I like something doesn’t mean anyone else will, but I always hope it will speak to someone else.  You usually don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression so you’re always paranoid about your appearance—you don’t want your query to be rife with errors, and you want your opening chapter or writing excerpt to grab an editor’s attention immediately.  Any time you put yourself out there, you set yourself up for rejection.  I’m not a fan of rejection in any way, shape, or form, but I guess it’s just part of life.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Four Down and Twelve Across

When I completed graduate school, I was allowed to, along with the other students working in the university library system, to have my name placed inside a book.  I didn’t even have to think—I chose “The Boxcar Children” out of the Education Library, because it was one of my favorites when I was a kid and remains so to this very day.  My choice was not high-minded or pretentious or even academic; it was simply a work that was meaningful to my life, particularly my passion for reading.  Oddly enough I was not a shy child, but I was painfully self-conscious.  Over the years as I found out that being outgoing was a mistake more often than not, I retreated back into my shell and allowed books to be my friends.  I read all of the original Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner, as well as the ghostwritten later books, which were good but kind of amusing when you consider the arrested development of the characters.  They definitely lived a lot of life over the course of their never-aging selves.

Another of my favorites was a picture book, “Winston’s Red Boots”.  I’m not really sure why aside from the art and the fact that I didn’t have a lot of books or toys at that point, and thus made do with what I had.  I enjoyed it so much that I took it to school and recreated the cover for an assignment about my favorite book.  I still have the work, hardcover book on my shelf—the price tag tells me it was purchased at LA Joe for .99.  Hey, maybe that’s where my love for boots and nautical stuff originated.  Then again, Winston’s boots contained a treasure map and I always loved the ideas of maps and treasure and adventure.

Two more books I loved when I was older were “Gone-Away Lake” and “Return to Gone-Away” by Elizabeth Enright.  Again, I loved adventures and mysteries and these stories tied in a historical perspective and were so vivid that I could see everything in my mind as it happened, even without the aid of the books’ illustrations.

What were some of your favorite children's books?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Right or Wrong

I’ve joked in this blog in the past about writer’s block, but now I well and truly have it.  After writing ten novels in just over a year, with little in the way of a break, I find that for now I have no desire to muster the amount of empathy that would be required to tell someone else’s story.  I have reached this conclusion via several sources, a culmination of events that I don’t wish to share.  Needless to say, I am suffering the usual self-doubts.  I don’t possess an ounce of self-esteem so that’s nothing out of the ordinary.  For a period of time I enjoyed losing myself on the page and creating other worlds, venturing into places and relationships that I can only imagine in the depths of my mind.  Perhaps someday I will again, but I am not in the right mindset to create, craft, or enjoy the creative process.  I also understand that a lot of writing is finding your inspiration and pushing through adversity—but sometimes, I just can’t.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When the Credits Roll

When I was in graduate school, people were always picking up hobbies—cooking, gardening, even knitting.  Me?  I picked up…soap operas.  I didn’t just stumble upon soap operas like Darwin found the Galapagos Islands; I have a long history with them.  When I was a kid, I don’t remember ever hearing of daycare, and preschool didn’t arrive in these parts until I entered first grade.  During the daytime, non-school hours, you napped, played, and watched soaps with your babysitter.  I watched nearly all of them at one point or another, and was lucky enough to see them before budget cutting, interfering networks, and myopic producers gutted and ruined and murdered them.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the opening credits of Guiding Light inspired my lifelong fascination with lighthouses.

But as a kid, my favorites were “The Young and the Restless”—it was so interesting and well-paced that you could miss an entire year and pick right back up where you’d left off; “The Bold and the Beautiful”, with its larger-than-life characters and bizarrely named brothers, Ridge and Thorne (!?); and “Days of our Lives”, for its rich history, family ties, and byzantine, arresting drama.  It’s sad that you can no longer channel surf and see what’s happening in the other networks; you have four options on your daytime dial that you can either take or leave.

And I loved these credits—Edward and Lila! Luke and Laura!  Bobbie and Tony! Felicia! Mac! Lucy’s eyebrow!  Fantastic.

I was partially drawn back into daytime when those idiots savagely murdered “Guiding Light”, which by that time had become a sad shell of its former grand, opulent self.  But I also had a coworker and friend who became my soap sounding board and reminded me of the greatness of Steve and Kayla.  Seriously, Steve wore an eye patch—is there anything cooler than that?

This was great, too.

I spent quite a few months reliving Steve and Kayla’s two-year or so heyday, from their first kiss to Steve’s two previously-unknown siblings showing up and all of the resulting obstacles, to Kayla’s marriage to Steve’s brother and finally her poisoning and deafness.  Anyone who knows my taste in television knows of my love for “Dallas” and the characters of Ray and Donna who had their own storyline featuring sign language.  Suffice it to say that things went downhill soon after Steve and Kayla wed, but their yacht wedding was one of my favorites in daytime history.

Over the past few years of unemployment, loneliness, empty days, and more unemployment, the soaps have been my steady companions.  Sometimes it is painful to watch them, and I have recently had to dump two of the remaining four from my viewing schedule.  If “The Young and the Restless” doesn’t clean up its act, it may be next.  “General Hospital” provides me with the most consistent enjoyment these days, even if it is, at times, uneven.  But the hour invariably features a decent mix of veteran characters, romance, intrigue, and children who are actually connected to the canvas in a real way.  I only hope it will continue to be as good for as long as I’m a viewer, or at least as long as networks still believe in this uniquely-American form of storytelling.  There aren’t many multi-generational, family-centered programs left these days—nor are there many you can remember from childhood.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cowboys Like Us

My love for the series “Castle” is well-known, and I’m not shy about promoting the show to other prospective viewers.  Over the years I have also seen Nathan Fillion in “Desperate Housewives,” “Pasadena,” and “Waitress”, so wasn’t it inevitable I’d eventually get around to watching “Firefly”?  Thanks to a friend who sent me the DVD set for my birthday, I was able to view it.  The foremost question, of course, was would I enjoy it?  I love “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” and “Lost in Space” and “The Twilight Zone”, and the fifteen or so episodes I was able to see of “The X-Files” were great, but I don’t, as a rule, seek out science fiction.  Call me a lazy viewer: sometimes I just can’t commit to something with that much mythology.  My impression after viewing “Firefly” is that you either get it or you don’t—thankfully, I got it.  I was fascinated by the idea of a space western:  cows and horses and taverns and spaceships and futuristic weapons.  Fillion’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds was a layered character who didn’t take crap from anyone, and the show was imbued with a lot of heart, humor, and even pathos.  There were plenty of unexpected twists and turns, and I find myself wondering, with every short-lived show, how a second season might have looked. I still need to see the follow-up movie, “Serenity.”

Back to my point about “getting it”.  It reminds me of a show that I loved as a kid, “Eerie, Indiana”, in which the lead character and his best friend seemed to exist in an alternate universe in which they were the only keen observers.  So much of life is subjective, including television shows, because we reflect our own set of feelings onto the characters and their plights.  If I didn’t already have a fascination with westerns and the cowboy lifestyle, or an appreciation of Nathan Fillion, my enjoyment of “Firefly” may have been much less.  Thanks for the laughs, Serenity gang—I needed them.
Yes, I know this capture is from "Desperate Housewives".  It's what was in my DVD player at the time.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Home Improvement

In the process of self-improvement and blog improvement, I have also been trying to accomplish some things around the house.  Easier said than done.  It’s much simpler to buy something than it is, years down the road, to figure why exactly you bought it. The purpose of this task that resembles digging a trench with a spoon and fork is to provide myself with much-needed workspace.  My laptop allows me to travel from place to place, but I really need a work area that will be free from distractions.  There are a lot of “why’s” that come from this endeavor, too.  Why do I need a dedicated workspace?  I don’t exactly have hobbies.  I have no clue what writing is considered in the grand scheme of things; it’s something I’m serious about, but that doesn’t mean anyone else takes it seriously as a career.  And since I am now falling back into familiar habits, it is time to stop blogging for today.