Monthly Archives: August 2015

First Saturday Catch-up for August.

Reading
Been a busy-ish month on the reading front. I’m working through a little backlist on a couple of writers with new books coming out this fall, and starting to work through some debut galleys.

Finished River of Dust by Virginia Pye. A well done, very dark story about missionaries in China in the years after the Boxer Rebellion. She has a new book coming out soon that’s been getting some really good reviews: Dreams of the Red Phoenix.

Also finished The Unnatural History of Cypress Parish by Elise Blackwell. A beautiful, gentle story about a young man’s coming of age during the lead-up to the 1927 flood of New Orleans. I also have Blackwell’s an Unfinished Score in my stack, followed by her new book due out this fall called, The Lower Quarter.

The other books on the list are Thicker than Blood by Jan English Leary, American Copper by Shann Ray, and a short story collection King of the Gypsies by Lenore Myka.

All of those are with an eye toward getting the authors onto the podcast. More about that later.

For personal reading, I’m looking to get started, finally, on Molloy by Samuel Beckett, or maybe Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, or Wittgenstein’s Mistress by David Markson, or maybe The Erasers by Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Watching
Because I have a little celebrity crush on Grace Park (Boomer/Athena in the Battlestar Galactica series), I’ve been watching Hawaii Five-0 on Netflix. It’s . . . OK. There’s some good humor in it, but at the moment, only part way into Season 2, I’m not that impressed with the writing. I know it’s an hour long TV show so they’ve got to get thing wrapped up all snappy like, but . . . wow. They make some pretty amazing and unbelievable leaps of intuition and logic. Also, who knew Hawaii was such a hotbed of international intrigue? But it’s fun and I get in some good eye roll exercises.

However, I do find a few certain things disturbing, especially in the light of current events related to police these days.
        1) Everywhere they go, every person they encounter, the Five-O team has their guns drawn. WTF? Within the isolated context of the TV show it provides visual drama. Within the broader social context, it further reinforces this militarized, escalated idea that every police encounter is a tense fart away from violence.
        2) These cops always seem to shoot the right person. It’s always a bad guy and the bad guy is always armed. Also, they repeatedly have shootouts in public places full of bystanders . . . and no bystander ever catches a bullet unless – somehow – that bystander is integral to the plot.
        3) Five-O has been given special legal status in the context of the storyline, but I still find it disturbing how cavalier they are with the collection of evidence. Sure, yeah it’s a TV show, but staging the kidnapping of a suspect, complete with placing a black hood over his head, and then pretending to threaten the suspect with throwing him off a cliff . . . well, I doubt any confession obtained would be admissible in court, either in the effort to convict the suspect or to convict the “real” bad guy the suspect works for.

What I’m getting at is this: cops watch TV, too. How many of them watch fictional cop shows? Is there a correlation between the overly aggressive cop and that cop’s consumption of unrealistic cop shows on TV? We are already concerned that the dramatic device of torturing a suspect to save a city in fictional scenarios is seen as acceptable and effective in real life when really it isn’t. I’m not demanding Cop shows on TV b become hyperrealistic. That would be boring for one, and for the second part, the show would pretty much consist of cops stopping people for minor violations and issuing them tickets and fines so that the police force can keep itself funded. Here, read this piece from Mother Jones about the financial pressure behind super aggressive policing.

Listening
Didn’t discover any new music this last month, but I’m not worried that my musical exploration has ended. I’ve been locked down on writing, so, mostly I’ve been listening to the playlists I’ve built for a couple of the stories I’ve been working on. I have a playlist for Far Nineteen, and one for a new project that I’m itching to get started. When it’s not either of those, I’ve still got Frightened Rabbit’s The Midnight Organ Fight going.

I am interested in finding out more about certain bands that have some catchy songs getting some play now, but I’ll have to do some research since I mostly hear the songs on the radio, in the car, driving to and from work.

Podcast News
Ok, podcast news. Stephen and I have been continuing to do the Laboratory shows on The Outrider Podcast. We’ll be late on the August episode. Doing the podcast has been a challenge and a reward. I love talking to other writers, learning about new books, and feeling like I’m engaged in a community despite being in the middle of nowhere (basically) and isolated for some undefinable reason among the writing community (small as it is) here in Wichita. Perhaps it’s a “Gen X” thing, in that I’ve never been much of a joiner, and I recoil at naive earnestness and delusion.

Anyway . . . the difficult thing with the podcast is the time and energy to maintain the initial schedule I had when now, I’m kind of in the standard publication cycle. I’ve pretty much run through all the writers I know who are up for talking to me. A few I know have, for unfathomable reasons, declined. I’m hard of hearing, was one excuse. Recovering at home from surgery was another excuse. I’m not going to name names, but seriously, I can make a weekend trip for someone close enough who can’t hear well over the phone, and how physically taxing, even post surgery, is it to lay on your couch and turn on Skype? So, having run through all the writers I know, I now have to track down writers I don’t know, and that means, more often than not, reading the writers book first to see if I even like it.

I’m not going to spend an hour talking to someone whose book I didn’t like. That wouldn’t be a good conversation and it would be dishonest.

So, I’m kicking around ideas on formatting and so on. A number of podcasts I listen to do “seasons,” and that may be the solution I go with for the interviews. The Laboratory will continue, but Stephen and I may reformat it, or not. I like the exercises, but I’m a terrible procrastinator. I have some other things I’d like to do with the podcast, but, of course, those take time and effort and I’m here also trying to get a novel out into the world, finish writing another one, and start yet another. Throw in a full time job, trying to exercise on a regular basis, and hopelessly, dumbly, deludedly trying to find someone to date, it doesn’t leave a lot of hours in the day to sit and think – and sitting and thinking, for me, is a huge part of being able to write.

Writing & Submitting
So, writing and submitting. I’ve decided that The Palace of Winds does NOT need to be 700 pages. I’d written it to stand alone, so it should stand alone. Plus, I needed a “finished” in my create ledger and telling myself after almost a year of thinking it was finished that it was, in fact, NOT finished, was sending me into depression. I should be using it to find an agent anyway, so I’m getting back on that track. But, of course, I’m hyper critical of my query writing skills. So much so that I often paralyze myself. I need to find a way around that.

Far Nineteen missed its deadline for the end of June. It missed its deadline for the end of July. Good thing these were just my own, personal deadlines. It’s been harder to finish than I’d expected, but that, in a way, is a good thing. I feel like the hang-ups have come from me allowing myself to simply sit with a character and get them properly understood. Since the book deals with race and racial issues and has several African American characters, that is far more important than the drive to get it done.

When that gets done, I’ll be recruiting readers to either read it and provide notes, or come visit me and read it out loud while I take notes and mark up the text.

Random Thoughts
Dating sites are horrible places.

There’s always a secret baby.

I’m too old to hang out in bars, and even when I was young enough, I never had the nerve to approach a woman and strike up a conversation, so what make anyone think I’d start doing it now.

They say that to meet someone, you should go out and do something you like to do and while you’re doing that thing you like to do, you’ll eventually meet someone who also like doing that thing – and Yahtzee! So, if you’re a dude who’s into motocross, do that a lot and eventually you’ll meet someone. I like indie bookstores and libraries. Problem is, my ex-girlfriend is the inventory manager at my favorite indie bookstore. It feels kind of awkward to troll the place looking for a new girl right in front of the old girl. The other problem is that the main library here in Wichita is just a few blocks south of the largest homeless charity, so every time I’ve been in library I’ve a strange encounter with a homeless man, which, being me, is utterly disturbing. I’m usually very much inside my own head. I move through the world trying not to have surprise encounters. Homeless men always surprise me and on top of that they’ve been known to go to great lengths, to cross wide, empty parking lots, push through crowds of other people to, seemingly, target me as the person to most likely have change. Startle me in public, and I react like a frightened cat. That’s not good. So, I avoid the library except when I really need something, and I always enter trying to look as mean as possible, which is not the best look to have on my face when I accidentally bump into a cute librarian.

There will be a very intense conversation with the next person who tells me I should go to church to meet a good woman. That conversation will begin with “Do you know the difference between a leap of faith and a conclusion based on empirical evidence?” I’ve also been planning a graphical way of representing the lecture I imagine following the person’s inevitable wrong answer to that. Then I’ll explain that since I do not share any faith in their particular deity, and since they cannot empirically prove the existence of their deity, nor can they prove the non-existence of all other deities imagined by humans, it’s pointless to ever talk to me about God. Also, which church has the hottest women? And, furthermore, which of those hot church women would be OK with finding out that I’d trolled her church pretending to be a believer? Not many relationships survive that were started on a foundation of dishonesty.

I am flabbergasted that people think the Apollo 11 moon landing was faked. Of course, some of those same people probably think people and dinosaurs coexisted and just missed getting on Noah’s Ark. I often get the “your brand of stupid hurts my eyes” look when I have to talk to them.