Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quiet Sunday

Sunday was a down-time day.  Saturday had been filled with light, and it was warm enough to be able to edit outside.  Sunday, dawned damp, grey, and cold.  I stayed in my pajamas a very long time.  Instead of writing, I worked on various papercraft designs for the holidays.  One design is for a polyhedra made out of a hexagonal arrangement that I call the "lightning star."  I don't recall the precise source of the lightning bolt shape, but it's borrowed from Moroccan tile design.   The other design is circles with three slots arranged in a triangle with stars and snowflakes cut out of the center.   I should be able to lock those into an icosahedron.  

Some noise--the cat, I think--woke me up 12:30 Monday morning and I realized I was wide awake after only about two hours of sleep.  I tossed and turned a bit, and since I didn't want to wake up Mark, I moved to the couch.  I fretted a little about being awake, and then tried to think about the fairy tale story I'm editing.  About this time I became aware that I'd had a dinner of pepperoni pizza, so I got some milk.  Then I went back to the couch and tried to sing "Center of the Sun" in my head, but then started thinking about work and writing and more work.  About two hours later, I eventually fell alseep.

The cat stirred and I got up at 6:30.  I'm not sure if I'm tired but rested, or simply under-slept.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

These Are Not the Mushrooms You're Searching For...

Yesterday we went on a hike east of Oakridge to search for mushrooms.  The sky was clear and the sun was out, although it felt like it set early in the valley we were in.  Sunlight liberated steam from the saturated ground.  Usually mushrooms are all over the place, but this time we only saw them in ones and twos.  Mark was very happy when we found a purple mushroom, which he took a picture of.

The Child could only speak about Sith and Jedi the entire three hours we hiked.  I attempted to have him listen to the trees and the stream in crane stance because 1) it's good practice for his Kung Fu class, 2) to get him to be quiet for two seconds, and 3) to try to get him to actually focus on self-betterment and other positive benefits of focusing on The Force besides Force-chokes, Force-pushes, and Force-lightning.  (Mark and I have taken to shouting "Force-smooch!" and "Force-hug!" as an antidote to all the violence... and I think I may have to change my name to "Darth Enchanté.")

Friday, November 20, 2015

On List Stories

13 Reasons Why I Hate* List Stories

  1. List stories are a form of epistolary stories.  This isn't a bad thing per se, but the reader knows the protagonist-writer isn't dead, or at least has survived whatever plot (if any) complications, so the story tension feels flat.

  2. List stories typically have no setting, which contributes to the feel of a "talking heads" story.

  3. List stories are sometimes not lists, as if the story has realized that it needs characters interacting, an interesting setting, or a plot.  Suddenly the list form falls away and actual story elements break out of the constraints of the list's structure, like birds breaking out of a birdcage.

  4. List stories, when they have any plot at all, are usually reveal-stories.  So you get to the end and the account trails off because the list maker is dead, or insane, or eaten, or is really an alien.

  5. Also; why are we going through a dead/insane/digested/alien person's personal scraps of paper?

  6. They are a form of writers bitching writing about writing.

  7. List stories are joke stories.   Each list item is supposed to be a punch-line.  Or something.  This is difficult to pull off.

  8. Try-fail cycle?

  9. Another joke here.

  10. List stories seem to be inspired by the self-help section of the bookstore or those spammy click-bait websites.  It's like "Dick and Jane" meets "ridiculous ways to get outrageously rich quick."   Run, dear reader, run.

  11. List stories sometimes turn into an instruction set written as if the person writing the list was either  A) an information technology support person, B) trapped in a bureaucracy , C) suffered from OCD,  D) Satan, or E) someone who hates lists of instructions.

  12. List stories are in vogue now, the same way sexy vampires, lusty pirate maids, and zombies were in their heyday.   This means that list stories get published instead of the stories I write.

  13. Not all list stories.

*by "hate" I mean the way authors are bemused and annoyed by stories like "Twilight," "The Da Vinci Code,"  and "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dark. So very Dark.

Wednesday.  Well.  Darn.  I think the darkness of November is making me depressed.  Not a full, "I'm just going to sleep in bed until May 1" depressed.  More like a bleh, meh, and intermittent bouts of depression saying "I'm going to sit on your chest and pile some stones on top of your sternum.  Oh! And Happy Birthday! (What have you done with your life?)"

More (dark) chocolate and workouts for me, I guess.

Writing:  I've been polishing the Halloween reading story.  It's more-or-less where I want it, and I should let it rest for a day or two and read it with fresh eyes one last time before sending it through the rejection gauntlet.  

Thursday:  The rain is back today.  We're supposed to get anywhere between a quarter and a half inch today.  Some of Mark's bonsai were soaked; he rescued them.  I'm hoping it will hydrate our back yard, which had some gaping cracks in it over the summer.  The whole neighborhood is pretty much sitting on clay, as we learned when our neighbors excavated a couple of years ago.  

Writing:  I read a list story on-line and I'm bemused by it.  The opening was very clever, but by item three the story lost steam.  I'm trying to figure out what else the editors liked about it, and I'm thinking the difficulty I'm having with it is that the premise (and reveal) is that the reader is part of a collective intelligence, which begs the question of the epistolary form.  Additionally, I think this is another one of those pieces that I'm not getting the humor of.  Oh well.

Working Out:  Went to the gym.  Did a 20 min run on the elliptical and got to 230 calories.  Cute little sweat beads broke out on my right arm, but not my left.  Repeating to myself "Sweat is fat crying," I went downstairs.  3X12X40 on the pec fly.  3X12X80 on the lat pull-downs; I tried some narrower grips on the bar to attempt to work different muscle groups.  3X12X35 barbell curls.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Fairy Stories

Working out:  Saturday I had a full session at the gym.  200 cal on the elliptical, 50 on the rowing machine.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and chin-ups.  I tried to do an unassisted chin-up and I can almost-but-not-quite do one.  3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.  3X12X35lbs barbell curls.  I think the elliptical session turned on endorphins, because this was a fairly hilarious workout.

Writing:  The other night at a critique session, someone asked me why I had written a piece as a fairy tale, or, more precisely, what function telling the story as a fairy tale was bringing to the story.  I'm still sort of trying to wrap my head around their question, because it feels like they asked "Why do you speak in English?" and I'm sure that's not what they were trying to get at.

I started to say that I wanted to tell a transformative story in the way that Tolkien talks about in his essay "On Fairy Stories."  When I first started writing the story, I'd read "Fairy Tale Queens: Representations of Early Modern Queenship" by Jo Eldridge Carney, a book comparing fairy tale queens with Queen Elizabeth I, and which explored the queen as forge of dynasties, the queen's fertility, and the role of the court and of gardens vis the queen's fertility.  That and Tolkien's essay about prohibitions and taboos, made me want to try my hand at writing something like George McDonald's "The Golden Key," or William Morris' "The Story of the Glittering Plain," or Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant."  Only with a steampunk style (it wasn't steam-powered so much as wind-up plus some magic).

The mix of vaguely English 18th Century fairy tale with techno-wind-up tech threw some people for a loop.  I think the difficulties were with the prohibition, which is part of the fairy tale formula, and the unbelievable way the princess had broken it; and courtly dialog.

I took the question a little further, and I wondered, why is it that I write urban fantasy, or science fiction, instead of mainstream literary fiction, or magical realism, or memoir.  And I guess the answer is, "I write what I'd like to read more of."

 I'll confess I went in thinking "this manuscript is going to blow everyone away" because it had done more-or-less that with The Wordos. The coolest thing about writing is when and idea in my head manages to jump into another person's head, but it became clear that that hadn't happened with this particular reader and this particular fairy tale manuscript.

 When my writing doesn't work, there are times that I feel like it's because I'm defective, or an unactuated adult, or the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time.  We used to have someone at the Wordos who wrote cool, lyrical poetry--but who couldn't write a linear plot to save his life and his stories were labyrinthine tomes that were frustrating to critique; I don't want to be that person.

 Had a stuck in Arcosanti dream.  I had to walk out of Arcosanti--which had a suburban development around it--to the junction, which was on a curving mountain-side (think Mary's Peak) and wait for either a bus or Mark to pick me up.

Working out:  Monday I managed to get to the gym.  190 cal on the elliptical in 20 minutes, 100 on the rowing machine in 10.  3X12 at 14 on the assisted dips and 3X10 on chin-ups.   3X12X40 lbs on the pec fly.  3X12X80 lat pull-downs.  3X12 curl-ups.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Nov 10 Journal

Working Out.  Went to the gym Tuesday. I'd wasted too much time previously trying to get a web site to track my gym attendance, so I had a correspondingly shorter session.  15 minutes at 140 cal on the elliptical.  10 and 120 on the rowing machine. 2X10 assisted chin-ups and 2X10 assisted dips.  Then I had to run off on errands.

Wordos:  Received a critique of the Halloween story, which needs some re-working.  I need to place some more action in following the story chronology.

Dreams:  More really weird dreams last night -- probably the post-critique tequila drink is to blame.  I crossed over an over-flowing dam to a simple village that had quarantined itself (from unspecified modern diseases).  Crossing over water into a different place is a common motif.

The dream slowly transformed from a rural backwoods village into increasingly urban surroundings.  I could fly in the dream, and at some point I was flying around the Reed College campus.  Flying over a much more Gothically ornate Elliot Hall is another common dream motif.  Then it turned into sort of wandering and flying through various dorms, halls, and bars.  At first I was looking for something (my dorm room?  a place for dancing and drinks?) and there was a vague sense that it was orientation week.  Then I was trying to get away from someone and flying was harder.  At one point the world's gravity changed and the New York Style apartment building I was trying to fly away from became "down" and I slowly fell back to it.

And then I woke up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Let's Do It

Sunday afternoon I was indolent.  I had been craving hot cocoa, so I made some, enjoyed it, and promptly had a sugar-crash.  At least I got a workout in earlier in the afternoon.

The latest song that's become our favorite to sing is Cole Porter's "Let's Do It."  Mark observed that innuendo songs were nothing new, and found a clever early ninety's reworking of the song with references to Liberace, authors, and various English lords.  This has inspired us to make our own verses.

I think the difficulty is getting words like Eugene, cyclists, and Oregon to fit in the meter of the song.  

William Blake, burning bright, did it.
Chuck Palahniuk with a fight, did it.
Let's do it; let's fall in love.

Cyclists who ride side by side do it
on the streets of Eugene.
Drivers who text do it,
and it makes them careen.

Monday night I woke up around 1 AM certain that I'd heard something in the garage--you know when there's a memory that straddles sleep and wakefulness:  it's not the noise that wakes you, it's the memory of the noise.  I woke up enough to wander around the house looking for hooligans.  Our neighbor's garage proximity light turned on, so a raccoon or a cat or wayward bar-and-grill patron must have activated it.  A little over a half hour later, I went back asleep, only half-convinced the noise that woke me was the refrigerator or a hard drive or the ticking of a baseboard heater.

And then I proceeded to have Processing With People dreams.  I was suddenly in a strange town, but I had been living in the Reed College house known as The Motel Six; so I was sad that it had broken up, and I was trying to get KKMHK (whom I haven't seen in over a decade) to move in with me, and we kept having these odd financial discussions while wandering through an empty apartment.

In another dream, I was going to take a hot-air balloon ride (the balloon was very home-made and kind of small).  I was going to fly with someone, who kept changing throughout the dream.  At the end, it turned into someone who said 1) they were Muslim, 2) they were in love with me, 3) because their love was forbidden, they couldn't be alone with me in any circumstances--but they wanted to confess their feelings so that when they started shunning me I'd understand why.  There was something more about talking with a psychologist along the lines of what must be going through their head.

I woke up thinking "Huh?"  

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Journal: Sunday Workout.

Working out:  Went to the gym Sunday morning.  230 cal on the eliptical in about 23 minutes.  120 cal on the rowing machine in 12 minutes.  40lbx3x13 on the pec fly. 80lbxx3X13 on the lat pull-down.  3X13 on the curl-up frame (with about half of them with straight legs).  I tried some scissor kicks on a yoga mat, but I'm not sure I was doing them right; what I really wanted to do was some extended anterior abdominal stretches by extending my feet to the right and left while flat on my back.  35lbsX3X13 barbell curls.  7.5lbsX2X13 overhead triceps curls.  I also did some assisted chin-ups.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Writing Ritual

One of the habits I've gotten into is wrapping and unwrapping my wireless keyboard in a lavender, maroon, and navy  tea towel embroidered with geometric letter forms.  If I don't protect the keyboard while it's in my shoulder bag, dust and hair and fluff are more likely to get into the keys, and I can imagine the keys getting damaged by a stray pencil or book or something stuffed into the bag.  I want to make writing a kind of ritual, and unfolding the fabric from the keyboard when I write on my mobile device is supposed to put me into a kind of writing space.  When I'm done, I try to pause and think about how I'm putting the keyboard away as I carefully fold up the fabric around it.    

In my mind, I'm remembering times at the Episcopal Church, where the priests would gather at the altar after the communion to veil the chalice and paten.  I think I must have been six or eight, it's a strong image of three oldish men--probably Father Neville, Father Chadwick, and someone else--in white cassocks.  Someone's wearing a green chasuble, and another one a white one with red highlights.  And they carefully put the paten on top of the chalice, and fold a green cloth over the front, creasing the fabric into a trapezoid shape.  

However, when I was putting away the sacred keyboard, carefully and methodically folding the fabric around it, it occurred to me that it looked like some sort of compulsive-obsessive disorder.  It isn't.  It's me wishing I could dress up in robes and have everything be a ritual.  

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Journal for Early November

Working Out:  Went into the gym Tuesday night for a pick-up session on the elliptical (150 cal in about 15 minutes) and rowing machines (100 cal in about 10 minutes).

Writting:  Got about 800 words in on a short story that had an irresistible prompt about a mom smudging her son's dorm room.  Submitted a "light fluff" short story Tuesday morning; it got rejected Wednesday night.  On one hand, at least they didn't sit on it forever; on the other hand, it would have been nice if they bought it.  Submitted a different short story and I'm expecting a rejection there, too, if only because that particular market is famous for quick rejections.  I've a third story that's due to be rejected any time now from a market that's famous for slow rejections.  The Halloween short that I read to the Wordos last week is up for critique next week; I'm always interested in how these stories get critiqued because my voice usually hypnotizes everyone into thinking the story is the next best thing to laser-sliced bread, but once folks read words on paper, the spell is broken and I get critiques like, "I remember thinking this was hilarious when you read it, but..."  

Design:  I wanted to make some sort of paper Christmas Unicorn thing for the holidays.  When I brought up the unicorn designs I'd come up with, I noticed that I'd made two of the unicorns' bodies way too short for their legs and heads.  Fiddled with the splines, and now I have better looking unicorns overall.  Alas, the unicorns have different bodies and poses than the deer I created to great effect a few years ago, so I'm going to have to rethink what I want to do.  (And thinking about it has just given me an idea.... which trying much later today has panned out.)

More Working Out:  Got to the gym late Thursday.  Elliptical, 150 cal in 15 minutes.  3X12X30 on the pec fly.  3X12X70 on  the lat pulldown.  2X12 curl-ups.  Tried to straighten my spine on a pool noodle.   Discovered the gym has an electronic body fat measuring tool; I think it was mis-calibrated, because it said I had about 10% body fat (or about 16lbs of it) which sounds a little low to me (who knows, maybe I'm wrong).

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

No Power Wednesday

The big excitement this morning (Wednesday) is that EWEB (Eugene Water and Electrick Board) decided to do some work replacing a sheared power pole and turned off the electricity for the neighborhood at about 7:25.  I was making breakfast at the time; luckily, I had not started to microwave some eggs.  The power sort of flickered, first, and then about twenty seconds later it went out for good.

Mark looked around for an EWEB phone number to call.  Eventually, he cranked up a radio and we heard on the local news what had happened.  It seemed odd that EWEB hadn't e-mailed or mass-phoned first.  (One of my co-workers said that she'd heard on the radio that they would turn off the power before they actually turned the power off.)

Luckily, we'd all showered.  And luckily, I'd already made my tea.  We went around turning things off (luckily the computer equipment was already powered down).  The Child commented on how weird it was to walk into a room, forget the power was out, and flip the light switch.  I noticed how much more quiet the house was without the humming of the refrigerator, and the subtle buzzing of the lights, computers, and power strips.  

The stillness of the air and the need to use sunlight to see reminded me of the house my Grandma Agnes's father built around 1890.  My Great-Uncles Olaf and Conrad lived in the house up until Olaf died in the early seventies and Conrad moved onto property in Svenson with my Grandma and (Step) Grandfather Einer around 1978.  

The old homestead, about twenty miles out of Astoria (past Olney on highway 202), had no electricity or plumbing.  Conrad did have a large radio that took eight D-sized batteries to run.  My favorite part of the house was the old pump bellows organ, and a giant tree that was probably about four trees grown together--it had a raised place about five feet off the ground where the trunks met.  It was like being in the palm of the tree.  I also liked the hummingbird feeders my Aunt Dorothy had set up on the front porch (which was never used as a front porch -- we always entered through the kitchen door.  

The old stuff in the house was interesting.  But, like most children dragged to an elderly relative's house, there was a lot of stuff we couldn't touch and not much for us to do.  Skittering water droplets on the wood oven lost its allure after an hour or two.  The giant whetstone was fun for about fifteen minutes, but we never really used it to sharpen anything.  The outhouse seemed particularly barbaric.

I wish the house had stayed in the family because it was a farm and it did have a lot of history.  It's the sort of place that would make a cool writers' retreat or artist's colony (or farm).  It was eventually sold sometime in the eighties and it's been decades since I've seen the place.    

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Halloween Weekend Warrior

Ugh.  This weekend has been an orgy of rich foods and I've still not recovered.  I had a fantasy that I would go to the gym Monday, but I was feeling so lousy that I didn't.

Friday (a no school day) started out with some car maintenance.

Saturday was Halloween; our pumpkins were extra scary because they had rotted.  The first Winter storm dropped about an inch of rain, too.  Between the cat, party hooligans, and the change from Daylight Savings Time, I got very poor sleep.

Sunday was a post-Halloween tea.  It was lots of fun.  Followed by going to a book release; I wasn't exactly the most awake.

Monday (a no school day) I realized that I shouldn't have had that extra short-bread tartlet from the day before.