Category Archives: Life

Release Date

What with everything going on this May, (two birthdays, prom, two graduations, etc!), I have decided to release my novel in June. So the official release date for my e-book Dragon Venom will be June 29, 2017.

That’s the feast day of my patron saint, incidentally, which is why I picked it. But it also gives me some time to do the umpteen million things that I have to do between now and then and still have time to get the book completely ready for your reading pleasure. So, wish me luck, I will be very very busy for the next several weeks and I will need every bit of energy that I can muster to get everything done.

I’m excited!


Sickness Sucks

Major major arthritis flare here over the past six weeks. The medications are just kicking in, so maybe I will be healthy enough to get some work done. It’s pretty annoying to have stories and a novel ready to be published and not have the ability to just get it DONE. Had an attack of uveitis this time, which made my vision go blurry for a week. Now that’s fun– especially when you’re already nearsighted. You get used to not being able to see at a distance, and then, pow! You can’t see up close, either.

Anyway, I am going to go back and change a few little details here and there, but the basic premise is that I have missed my self-imposed deadlines not due to laziness, but due to my body deciding that “You know, hey, self-destruction is a cool thing to do for the changing of the seasons.”

Which forcibly reminds me that I need to go back and re-read a couple of books that I have about being an artist, being an artist in sickness and in health, and how to cope with the whole shebang. I need a little pep talk– it’s seriously depressing to say “Yes, I will publish this by Valentine’s Day” and have it almost be Easter and the thing is still not done.  This whole writing business was a lot easier when I was in my early 20s, before this disease decided to play hell with my life. Of course, everything was easier back then– that’s the reason all the middle-aged people look at young people and scream “ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN!” Time doesn’t change your inner self very much, and you certainly feel pretty normal mentally, but it does a real number on your physical self.

SO. To writing. One hopes. I’m trusting that this medication barrage will drive my inflammatory problems into hiding for at least a month or two. I usually get three good months out of it. So, cross your fingers, eh?


Alienating your Audience

Nightwish

I’ll be honest, I *think* this is has the newest singer in it, but they change them like shoes with the season, so . . ..

Okay, let’s just throw it out there. Artists are artists for a reason– they want to put their music, literature, art, whatever it may be, out there for the public to experience. (If they hide it in a box, this still implies a vague hope that someone will find it after they die. Otherwise, you’d burn that stuff.)

This often includes putting in a huge chunk of your ideals, religion, philosophy, and (most certainly) your personality. That’s just the way it is. And people’s opinions, religions, philosophies, and such all change over the course of your lifespan.

Certainly, I’m not the same person I was 18 years ago when I was doing most of my writing. So many things have happened to me that aren’t public record, so many little changes, experiences, traumas, and joys . . . you couldn’t expect someone to stay the same for that long. So I don’t expect artists to do it, either– and I don’t simply listen to artists whose views perfectly align with my own. I spend a good deal of my life explaining to people that, yes, I can listen to a musician who happens to be a flaming atheist without the least remorse. Some elements of their beliefs may come through in their music, sure, but I’m an adult, I can pick out the stuff I like and ignore the ranting bits.

And, hey, sometimes ranting is not a binary sort of thing. I was amused when Rage Against the Machine objected so strenuously to Paul Ryan naming them as one of his favorite bands. We don’t get to choose our audiences– what kind of art would that be? Some sort of self-referential masturbatory exercise, bleh. My opinions on Paul Ryan aren’t much more positive than Tom Morello’s are, I’m sure, but you have to admit that a rich musician has more in common with a rich politician than he’d probably care to admit. And, hey, Morello can always hope that his sometimes bizarre guitar solos will induce a seizure in the politician and bring about some kind of late-in-life political swing.

But anyway, wouldn’t you like to at least admit the possibility that the most folks in the country STILL don’t disagree with the people on the opposite side of such things on basic principles like babies shouldn’t be starving and nuking our world is probably a very bad idea. Maybe having people who disagree with you listen to your music or read your books or look at your pictures can be a good thing. Maybe, hey, you can open eyes through your art, who knows. Living in an echo chamber is boring AF.

The problem comes in when you suddenly do a 180 degree switch to something that’s out and out religious or political when your audience has previously not looked to you for wisdom of that sort. If you’re at all familiar with Rage Against the Machine, the fact that they stood naked on stage to protest censorship, or that they support the Zapatistas isn’t going to surprise you. If, however, Zach De La Rocha suddenly released a cd of Marian hymns and polyphony chant, you’d be more than surprised. Some people would be thrilled (hey, I would) but most of their audience would be pissed. That wasn’t what they were selling before, so what’s with the switch?

The Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish did something of a similar sort with their 8th album, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful.” Oh, Nightwish has always been a little wonky on the religion side of things– Finland isn’t exactly a hotbed of Christianity at this point, our efforts to Christianize them having fallen through quite some time ago. Finland actually has the lowest population of Catholics in Europe, and even most of those are emigre Poles. But the songwriter/mastermind of the band mostly confined himself to topics of fantasy, nature, and whimsy, with the rare song like “Wish I Had an Angel” that is actually blasphemous (in a sort of “I want to write a bad-boy metal song” kind of way.)

Then, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful. . . in which, Nightwish suddenly swerved into atheistic Darwinism of the most unthinking type– the type that considers religious people to be deluded and stupid and inferior, instead of just people who happen to disagree with you about the probability of the existence of a deity. Sigh.

It’s a painful thing when a band which you’ve enjoy, whose albums you have bought, decides to write songs telling you that “You live only for the days to come, Shoveling trash of the upper caste” in “Weak Fantasy.” And in “Yours is an Empty Hope,” he follows it up with imagining the vitriol that he will receive online with musings like “Feed me to pigs in your fantasies, Your sea roars bitter elegies . . . Yours is an empty hope.”

Well, gee, I don’t know what you expected, Tuomas. Basically, since Nightwish brought on the uilleann pipes guy, the lyrics have started to sound like they were written after a few too many late-night marijuana-induced discussions of the nature of reality. You had an audience, and doubtless you will retain a great part of it and probably gather in new listeners, too. And I don’t wish them ill in this. Musically, Tuomas Holopainen is a gifted artist. I’m just surprised, myself, at the tone that Mr. Holopainen has taken. A decade ago, he stated that he wasn’t religious, but “doesn’t consider religion to be bad.” Then, a decade later, there’s a bunch of trash-talking, virulence, and . . .  all this.

No, you shouldn’t expect your audience to like every change you make. Ask Chris Cornell (who was in Audioslave with three members of Rage Against the Machine)– he made a more pop-sounding solo album with Timbaland as a producer and the critics and audience savaged him over it. They have tastefully stopped talking about it now that he’s impressed them with a new Soundgarden album and his Songbook tour, so he’s largely been forgiven for his unexpected shift into different territories. (Me, I loved that cd, so I never considered there to be anything to forgive. I don’t see eye to eye with Mr. Cornell on many political subjects, but he’s a damn fine musician and a great artist.)

But, you know, there’s being dignified when you make a change and it upsets and angers people, and then just moving on, deciding what you’re going to do next, and working on that next thing. You can take some of the advice you get, reject the rest, and do whatever your heart and mind and soul tell you is the right thing to do. Or you can get pissy about it and probably finish the job of alienating those people forever. It’s always, always, up to you.

All I can say about my own work is that I welcome thoughtful criticism. Trolling and flaming, well, those suck, so don’t comment with those and we’ll get along fine. Trolls get banned, that’s the standard rule of the road around here.

And I can guarantee that there’s going to be religious and spiritual and psychological and horror and fantasy and blood and guts and sexuality and all sorts of messy topics in my work. Just so you know. But my treatment of those topics is what makes my work, well, MINE. Unless I have one of those guitar-solo-induced seizures and suddenly change my basic personality, none of that’s going to change too much.

 

 

 


A song to think about

Back in the 90’s, the first Sweet Relief album was produced to provide money to cover desperately needed medical care for Victoria Williams’s MS care. One of the songs covered on that cd was covered, in fact, by the Jayhawks, a member of whom was at that time Victoria’s spouse.

I was listening to the CD today and this song in particular reminded me of why I do what I do, and whether or not I remember to cherish the things that I’ve made that aren’t what I perhaps wanted them to be.

Listen. Enjoy.

Lights


Progress and The Idiot

The thing about chronic illness is that it plays merry hell with your writing production.

I was reminded of this powerfully this month, not only because I have spent the past six weeks suffering through this stupid cancer treatment and a very bad arthritis flare simultaneously, but also because I finally finished reading Dostoyevsky’s novel “The Idiot.”

In my own life, my arthritis flares start with fatigue so all-encompassing that I could easily sleep 20 hours a day if I wasn’t forced out of bed to deal with reality. And when I am out dealing with life, I am functioning about as well as a zombie might. Once the fatigue passes, the pain begins, and typing is just one of the many things that becomes nearly impossible.

Dostoyevsky wrote “The Idiot” during a turbulent period in his life, and it’s possible to watch his own illness come and go in the quality of the plotting and writing. Some sections of the novel crackle with energy and the plot hums along without any hesitation. And then there are the sections where there’s hesitancy, redundancy, and a slight bewilderment in the plotting. Those periods are followed by chapters that suddenly introduce a narrator, who digresses about authorial intent and writing techniques. All in all, “The Idiot” is an at-times bizarre mess of a novel.

But it’s a grand mess, a touching long rumination about the nature of goodness, the difficulties of living in the real world with real sinful humanity all around you, and it also functions as a venue to explore the worries and fears of a man who was afflicted with epilepsy (as was the titular character.) It took me months to read through it, mostly because it required concentration and a lot of patience. The more confused chapters are difficult to get through, and whether or not Dostoyevsky purposefully wrote them that was as a reflection of his character’s mood or if it was an unconscious reflection of his own mental state, they’re very hard to get through. Once the characters leave Petersburg for Pavlovsk, the narrative meanders and doubles back according to whimsy.

I have started working again, although of course I am more than a month behind on my goals and stated ambitions. And I can only say that sometimes Reality steps in and makes its own goals the primary ones. Getting through each day, trying to get the very basic things of life done, it leaves no time for art or craft. If you can’t even remotely figure out how you’re going to cook dinner or make it to the dentist without falling apart, it’s a pretty good bet that you’re not going to be working at any sort of artistic high point.

So, I will continue to work. And I will update when I am done. It shouldn’t be too long, however. My birthday is soon and I want to be out with the old and in with the new, so to speak. Getting these old projects off my to-do list would clear the decks for more new things.


Delay

Sorry excuse but I am down with some rotten illness that the teenager dragged h9me. As I so eloquently told my 10 year old, I feel like dog poop. 

Apologies for the delay but I will be busy whenever this headache stops.


Apologies 

A series of unpleasant mishaps and illnesses have kept me from getting that story online. Primary among them has been the fact that all my digital backups have vanished. I have some hard copies (at least I sincerely hope that I still do) but I am making a last ditch effort to find the storage discs before I have to manually type them back in. (Those scan to Word programs have never impressed me.)

Oh, and I have some kind of post-viral inflammation of my inner ear, so I am fighting extreme nausea and dizziness. Which definitely doesn’t make you want to go dig through the closet and garage trying to peer behind boxes and lug them around.

I have got to get over this illness eventually, right? Sheesh. Once I do, I will get that publishing work done. January has been pretty much a loss on every front. February has got to be better!


Back from the Dead

Okay, so WordPress tells me that I haven’t updated this blog in 4 years. That’s not strictly true, it was June of 2013 when I decided to take a break from blogging about writing, and basically from writing itself.

What happened to keep me from going BACK to writing sooner than this, you ask? Well, it was a slightly unanticipated pregnancy that turned into a high risk nightmare, which turned into a baby in the NICU, which turned into me being somewhat obsessed with said baby for the past couple of years.

He’s 2 1/2 now and doing great. Half my kids are now legally adults. The other half are homeschooled, which has freed me from the logistical dramas of dealing with the public school system. (Night owls do not do well when their kids have to be on a school bus at 6:30 in the morning. Just saying.)

So, I find myself in the enviable position of having my “headspace” freed up enough that the urge to write is coming back and the stories are starting to nag at me to be finished. And writing Facebook posts is just not cutting it. I can tell them lots of stories about my kids and how badly my day went and what I cooked for dinner, but if I start rambling on about dragons or werewolves or literature or mythology, they look at me kinda funny. And I always have *something* to say about books or television or movies. Keeping it all inside is frustrating, although I have to admit that if I *had* liveblogged Season 6 of Game of Thrones, I may have gone mad trying to convey how much I hated about it.

Anyway. I’m back. . . . I’m bad. I’m nationwide. (hat tip ZZ Top.)

 


Jitters

So, I am having an MRI this week, to check the condition of my spine.

I had one seven or so months ago, and they found something of slight concern, so this is a follow-up to that, as well as an exploration of what might be causing my lower back pain.

No big whoop, in other words, but I am jittery and nervous as it draws closer. I am more than slightly claustrophobic, and being crammed into an MRI tube with your head in restraints is NOT my idea of a fun fun time. I’ve been trying to talk positively to myself about it, to be cheerful and look on the bright side, but somewhere inside me, there is a chattering squirrel of anxiety who is jumping from branch to branch and freaking out about this whole idea.

So far, I haven’t been able to shut up that particular rodent of thought. As much as I try to talk myself into it, I can’t quite escape my own illogical fears. So, I have a couple Valium prescribed by my doctor to try to at least get me through the process.

Problem is, I could sure use one NOW. 🙂

 


In the service of . . .

I have had cause, recently, to question the focus of my writing.

Part of that, certainly, is that I have had no real success in the field, therefore anything I do is as a newcomer, really. A few small credits, in this world, don’t matter much at all. Large credits are a different matter, but I have none, so “starting over” isn’t going to be very difficult at this point. And, isn’t the absence of credits a sort of proof that my focus is off, somehow?

Another part is my growing cognitive dissonance with the science fiction and fantasy worldview. I love scifi and fantasy– I grew up watching superhero tv shows and watching my dad read science fiction books, for goodness’s sake. One of the first series of books that my dad gave me was Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I will always be a fan and a supporter of the field. My movie tickets, book purchases, and cable tv subscriptions all help to keep it going.

The general feeling one gets, however, is that it’s a field that carries a sort of anti-religious bias. One only has to look at Orson Scott Card (and his recent pariah-like status) to realize that faith, openly defended and forming the basis of one’s work, isn’t going to win you honor and glory. At best, it’s sort of tolerated. At worst, it’s openly scorned. Everyone seems much more comfortable defending a writer whose work borders on pedophilia and rape-apology than defending someone who supports traditional marriage. It’s a pretty screwy situation for an orthodox person to find themselves in.

And I am orthodox . . . I very boringly believe in and follow the traditional teachings of an ancient religion founded in the Bronze Age by barely-literate sheep-herders, modified somewhat by a man who was executed by the Romans for a crime which he didn’t commit, and further expanded upon by a bunch of celibate men who wear funny clothes. And I’m okay with that. I chose this life, chose this faith, and have walked away from both the faith of my forefathers and the agnostic and atheistic leanings of my childhood.

I chose it for love. Some may scorn it, but it’s mine. And something freely chosen, for love, is something that a person ought to integrate into their work . . . at least, as far as they are able.

So I find myself on the cusp of 40, wondering if I can somehow write BETTER if I write things that are more true. Things that are closer to my heart and closer to what we generally accept as reality. Maybe it will help, maybe it won’t . . . but I feel the need to explore the idea, anyhow. I’ll never be a theologian, but perhaps I can find another niche.

It’s just a notion, right now, but it’s something I’m going to look into over the coming weeks. Wish me luck.