Monthly Archives: March 2013

Reading, and story time, and writing

The close of March is upon us, and I’m sad to see it go. We had our first summer-like day here, yesterday. The sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy and white, the land was drying out, the temperature hit the 70s, and everyone I came into contact with was very happy to have a break in the rain. As for myself? I’m already looking forward to autumn’s arrival.

It’s silly. We have another good three to four months of the rainy season. And I am happy that it’s warming up enough that gardening without turning your fingers into fingercicles. We have a newly created garden bed in our backyard that is waiting for me to go and turn over the grass that has grown since it’s implementation, and then we’ll start planting veggies. (Lettuce, tomato eventually, cukes, zucchini, peas). I have our front patch to reclaim from moss and grass, a rosemary plant and two trees to put in, and our bulb-bowl that we purchased for Ostara (a cluster of tulips, two hyacinth, two grape hyacinth, some crocuses, some fancy narcissis) to get into the ground. I’m looking forward to that, I really am.

If only it wouldn’t get so sunny. If only it would stay below 70.

The mornings are still quite nice, and I comfort myself by knowing that for most of the year here, the morning does not get that much warmer than they are now. But I’ll miss the biting chill.

The dog is happy, however, so that’s really what matters. He hates the rain and the cold, and the dark.

I did not double my word count during the second half of March. I’m starting to want to pay attention to that (I can’t remember when I last tallied it) but not in such a way as to make tracking more work and take away from the joy of writing. Unlike last year, I’m trying to stay aware of what my patterns are and adapt, rather than trying to apply goals that work against myself. It’s silly, maybe. It’s mostly attitude more than the actual “thing” I’m doing. Objectively, tracking word count and progress is the same, either way. Where my mind is at, how I’m viewing the progress, is all subjective.

I’m reading through, slowly, Reading Like A Writer. I’m two minds about it, about any books on the technical side of the writing craft. It’s entertaining, even if it is making me find books I wouldn’t otherwise find and read them — which, heh, I don’t NEED, as I’ve already spent more time reading than I should have, this month — but I’m reading it with some trepidation. Every time I pick up the idea that I “ought to” be writing with some goal other that telling the story, I sputter out and stall. I’m not a close-reader generally (this changes during story time, naturally) and I value my ability to read fast. I don’t sound the words out as I read, I don’t think them in my head, I see them, and there’s a meaning-association that I don’t need *sound* for. I don’t want to start reading that way all the time.

But I am enjoying our story time reading quite a lot, and I do think that writers really ought to read their work out loud. I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors — I’ll use Patricia Briggs as an example, because I adore her work, even if I wish she’d write more secondary world fantasy — possibly don’t, or possibly have a different ear than I do, because oh do I stumble through story time with her books. (Which doesn’t make me love them any less, mind.) Anne Bishop, to use another (and recently featured at story time) example, is greatly fond of long, active sentences. On the one hand, it’s refreshing in a world saturated by short, economic sentences and they delight me. On the other hand, I’m not reading for an audiobook, in a studio, where we can stop and edit as we need to. We have had some hilarious, “Okay, wait, try that again!” moments while I figure out where to put pauses and emphasis.

Reading things like Reading Like A Writer also makes me stop and wonder over things like, am I not like other writers? I don’t have a huge grammar study background. I enjoy reading things like stylebooks and dictionaries (don’t you judge me!!) and I like reading different ways of writing, but I don’t like dissecting. I don’t like taking the technique of writing away from the story, to hold up and dissect.

I suppose it could come down to what sort of writer you are, inside. Do you write so you can play with language and structure and technique, or do you write to tell the story, and grammar and language and technique are simply tools to help you do that? I’m certainly in the latter camp. And I don’t think there’s a wrong way, and I don’t think one is only one type of writer or another. I *do* like learning the different ways people approach things, and I do enjoy that I’m a bit of a pedant, and I try to keep that in my writing rather than letting it spill over into real life. And, knowing the history of writing, of language, of dictionaries, of the fluidity of language, and how modern a concept words being said or spelled just so is, how young, how barely a blip on our literary background, I realize that getting annoyed over misplaced apostrophes is silly and pedant. It’s an interesting inner war.

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I’ve recently finished reading Farnell’s The Cults of the Greek States Vol 3 which lead to some interesting conversations on the bus (and by interesting I mean annoying.) I’m currently picking through The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England and it’s one of those books where quotes are not translated, and really, I can’t handle the Latin. Sometimes, I can, if the context is clear enough, but . . . feh. Also, some other reader at some point noted the book to high heaven, and he seriously had a bee in his bonnet over what the author meant by Christian, and so that’s adding some fun giggling and eye-rolling. Off-line message train wrecks!

For story time, we’re working through Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels books. Have read the first two books, the short novel The Prince of Ebon Rih and Zuulaman short story, and we are on the third book now. I forget how much I love Lucivar. We have renamed Hekatah, which is too close to Hekate for me to be comfy with, to Hekaduh, because she’s repeatedly so stupid. And it’s made the reading fun.

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Reading books I love, whose stories suck me in (I’ve reread the Black Jewel trio five times, the most recent time being this month, because I read ahead of story time, too) is not conducive to writing my own work. Brittany and Thistle have suffered because of it. Must get disciplined. In fairness, the day job has been busy and stressful and feh. But, it always will be stressful. I need to stop sleeping in that extra hour and get up and *work*. Still, the rough draft is at 30k words, most of that from February and March. So, not too shabby.

And, it’s useful to learn that my natural default is to read more than write. Knowing that, I can inflict discipline. “Three hundred words, and then you can . . . “

Taking Time for What’s Important

Today I’m home from the day job with a somethingsomething foot issue. I suspect that the big toe is sprained. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter: it hurts, it’s swollen, the idea of putting a boot on it makes me want to run screaming. Or, limp screaming. I am trying to take care of me, even when it’s inconvenient, and I’m always trying to battle my crazy-broken-Protestant work ethic that demands that the worse I feel the harder I work to prove my worth. (I told you: broken) So, I called in and I’ll be sitting with foot up, with editing, reading, and possibly some writing of my very own. At the very least I’ll input the scenes that i went looking for in vain the other day, because I have them in a notebook, not on the system.

I am hopelessly scatterbrained when it comes to backing up files appropriately. I finally have all the typed stuff on both computers, but since having purchased the new laptop, I’d been very bad about doing a bit on that, doing a bit on the netbook, and not getting them into one place. It’s a bad, bad habit.

I’m not as productive, material wise, as I was last spring, but I’m happier/it’s less of a fight/I’m keeping on top of the other, also important things, so I call it a success. And new material is coming along. So, how to keep things happy and balanced and not neglected *and* produce a tad more? I suspect more sleep will have to go.

On the upside (sort of) day job is cutting my hours by 5, for the foreseeable future. Not just me, but storewide we’re losing a chunk of hour allowance. So, it could be good for writing. That’s an extra hour a day.

Reading! Currently we are reading Sunshine by Robin McKinley for story-time. This is a reread for me, and Beth’s first time through. As I’ve mentioned before, Sunshine is one of my Perfect Reads books. The writing is superb, the story engaging, the vampire alien and convincingly so. I’m having as much fun reading it aloud . . . I’m even somewhat trying to do voices this time.

I’m also reading through vol 2 of Cults of the Greek States by Lewis Farnell. I picked up vol 2 because I wanted the Kybele/Rhea section, and decided that there was a good chance Poseidon would be mentioned in the Demeter section. This reading is helping me cement the Greek script in my mind, and making me realize again that I am a nerd. Because I’m familiar enough with the script to sound out words even if I don’t know them, and a lot of them I do know on sight, and without any higher than college education I can read books written in a time period when people were reading them were expected to know Greek, Latin, French, and possibly German. Latin is the hardest to pick out the context, but my brain likes the puzzle solving aspects of reading such books. I am a word nerd. I am.

Because I am lucky, I’m also “reading” ‘s sequel to The Artist’s Inheritance. I say “reading” because it’s also work: I’m doing edits. But, I absolutely love this series, and so it doesn’t really feel like work. And no, you can’t read it yet. But you could go and buy the first book and read that! And, furthermore, you should!