Journal

Poly-Reader Notes: JUNE 2020

Well, as you could expect, I didn’t get a lot of reading done in May, due to moving/homeschooling/etc. We did finish Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Your Five-Year-Old, which is something, but not much progress made on any other current reads. Oh! I did read all of the upcoming Negative Space: An Anthology of Survival Horror, which was a lot of fun! That’s coming out likely June 19th, 2020, and includes my story, “Rhapsody in Flesh Minor,” a short SF tale about an artistic hermit under attack by a poly-bodied alien. Hopefully as we settle into this new phase of life, I’ll get a bit more time to read (something other than the news).

Currently Reading

Notes:

The Enchanted Castle – Picked this one up after we finished the fourth Harry Potter book, and I gotta say, as much as I love Nesbit, this…is not quite my favorite. The language, for some reason, is really clumpy to read aloud, unlike her other books, and the story is just…meh… And oh yeah! There’s some blackface in there, which is jarring though not entirely surprising as I’ve run into that issue several times in old children’s books. So THAT involves a conversation with a five-year-old (or, more often, shame-facedly skipping over it because you don’t WANT to have that battle when they’re tired, don’t want to really listen, and will probably only get about 20% of what you’re trying to explain to them). Ideal? No. Not at all. These are important conversations, but gauging how much a young child can understand/appreciate/won’t just confuse them is a complex dance. We’ve had many such conversations before, but I’m still not sure how much he’s really grasped it. And then the book just isn’t that engaging to me, but somehow he’s still intrigued by the magic ring and all that, so we press on for now.

Your Six-Year-Old – About halfway through this one–thank goodness for short books!–and as always, it’s an interesting survey of general six-year-old-ness.I’ve definitely found it helpful at least in identifying behavior that is common and normal at this age which helps calm the panic moments of “I’m a terrible mother! I’ve ruined my child’s life! Why is he so angry half the time then fine the rest of the time?!” Yeah, turns out those mood swings and a tendency to take out his frustrations on me are normal (and perhaps a little extra pronounced because of #pandemic), thank goodness. *phew*

Meander, Spiral, Explode – No progress, but I just need to pull it out of my moving box…

Dad is Fat – Periodically get a second to listen to this, but that’s usually during feedings, which isn’t particularly conducive to jolly laughter…

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman – This is the one book I’ve been reading lately, and I must say, I am loving it. Murakami is always high on my list of favorite authors, but I think all the more so recently in light of the pandemic. I was trying to put my finger on it, when I read an article by Miles Howard in the Boston Globe that kind of touched on it. In Murakami books, there’s no hectic sense of needing to be “productive”. His characters almost always seem to be on a stay-cation or a low key vacation, whiling away the hours without much to do. They make simple meals, drink a few beers, lay on the couch listening to jazz or classical records, or read for a few hours. It’s like they’re all living the pandemic socially-isolated life, where productivity is overrated and survival is good enough. And I absolutely love it. It was soothing before; it’s deeply resonant now.

Wild Swans – I forgot I was reading this book! I should put it where I can see it…

How to Write a Page Turner – I haven’t touched this one in a couple months, which means I really need to just power through it…

A Feast of Sorrows – I’m not that far from the end of this one, I’ve just hit the novelette-length stories at the end, and that’s slowed me down a bit. Just need to power through, because I really love Angela Slatter’s work!

Creativity for Life – Forgot about this one as the whole pandemic got started. Just need to power through…

The Power Broker – Hey, I liked this book BEFORE everybody on TV needed it for their bookshelf-backdrops to make them look smart! I haven’t made much progress but mostly because it’s a huge paperback (~2000 pages, I think) which makes it impossible to hold single-handed, which means I need to hold it on my lap or on an arm-rest to read (thankfully it does lay open), but adds just that little bit of extra challenge that keeps me from making it my go-to read. But I have enjoyed it so far, and look forward to continuing it soon.

Story Trumps Structure – Third entry in my “books about writing” list; this one I haven’t read recently, but I’ve enjoyed it so far as an alternative to the hyper-plotted writing books I’ve been reading in the past year or so.

Journal

Day 18 – Moving Ahead

Finally! At last! Woo-hoo! I finally got going on this rewrite that’s been plaguing me this week. I feel like I’ve loosened up the scar tissue in a bum shoulder and am actually getting some rotation again. *Phew!* What a relief. Anyway, I’ll go into that more later.

I’ve recognized one powerful way to know if a book is good (at least for me): possession. I’m not even talking about that “gotta read it” feeling, because I find these days that kind of intensity comes in fits and bursts, and can’t be counted on any more than “inspiration” to get my butt in the chair to write. I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness possession: the ability of a book’s characters or dialogue or action to physically change the real me in the real world. 

There’s a reason I don’t tend to read in public. I make faces. Weird faces. I scowl. I grimace. I glare. I break into huge goofy smiles. I giggle. I get teary-eyed. It’s odd, I’ve heard, from those who’ve studied me reading without my knowledge. But that’s how I know I’m in a good book: the characters have so deeply connected with my imagination that I’m not me anymore. I’m one of them. I’m feeling their pain, I’m enraged by the injustices done to them, I’m enraptured by their love interest, and I’m despondent when they’re defeated. This spans genres: I can get this way about a classic novel by Edith Wharton or John Galsworthy as equally as I can go head-over-heels for a novel like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Nova or anything with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I find myself mouthing or even whispering the pieces of dialogue, because reading them on the page alone isn’t enough involvement. If I could, I would crawl into the pages and be RIGHT THERE, short sword or evening paper in hand. 

It’s a ferocity, this possession, a wild, maniacal connection with a world far beyond my own. It’s not something I feel all that often, if I’m being honest. It’s a rare, precious feeling, one I get just often enough to get that spark, that reminder, that I remember having so often in my childhood when all books were new adventures, and I wasn’t as concerned by writing style and plot problems. It’s the kind of book that reminds me that books are portals to wonderful worlds. It’s the kind of thing that makes me buy my own copy of a book, just because I want to keep that world within reach, even if I have no intention in the near future of re-reading it (though I do re-read from time to time). It’s the kind of book I want to pass on to my future kids. The kind of book I want to share with all my friends. The kind of book I’ll defend to the end of the world to other writers and editors, because it’s just. that. damn. good. 

Most recently, it’s been The Silver Spoon by John Galsworthy (recently finished), and currently The Child Thief by Brom. Are either of these books perfect? No–definitely not. From time to time, I hitch up on technical mechanics that bother me, or scenes that don’t quite do all they could. But the overall feeling is that amazing heart-swelling adoration that just sucks me in and sweeps me away. I love it. And maybe I love it all the more because it’s a bit rare. 

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WRITING/EDITING PROJECT: Far-future lifeforms! Pulsars! Sentient robotic trees! Seedling space-travel! Massive radiation poisoning! It’s all here, and being converted to flash fiction from 3,600 words.

Working Title: ”The Miracle of Jane”
Added Words: N/A
Total Words (to date): ~600

Happening Today in the World of Fiction!: A raging pulsar! Poisonous radiation! Tidally locked satellites! A mother’s love and loss! The vast expanse of the universe, and the hope of a thousand happy clones!

Notes: Made good progress today, after a long, long bit of quite painful struggle to get my shoulders back into the story. Got two whole sections tweaked today, which is a nice pick-up, and leaves only three left to go. I’m relieved that a lot of this reworking is turning out to be not *quite* rewriting, but more syphoning off the absolute best details to keep and leaving all the (useful but technically discardable) chaff behind. There’s a bit of rewriting involved, just in transitioning from one thought to the next, but overall, it’s more or less compressing the best of the best sequences into self-contained 200-word segments. It takes a while, and isn’t particularly easy, but I’m finding that I already have a gut-feel for what I desperately want to keep, and that’s helping me zone in on the sentences and images to compile and compress. Tough going, but worth it so far, though tomorrow I’ll be starting to dip into the scenes I really *don’t* want to have to put together. Ugh. Not particularly looking forward to that!