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Peaches

Peaches

July 2010 Raleighwood, NC

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This past Sunday, instead of writing the last chapters of my current Work In Progress, I went out to the local Farmer's Market with my wife and bought a box of canning tomatoes and a large basket of peaches.

There are certain times of the year when the harvest gives you wonderful gifts -- gifts that I feel need to be preserved in some way so they can be appreciated later.  Say, in the cold, dark months of winter.

During the winter, my bear-like mammalian nature comes out and argues quite convincingly for me to adopt hibernation as a best defense against the cold.  Making a peach cobbler from a jar of peaches canned in the heat of the summer is one of the finest counter-arguments for staying awake that I know.

(The failure of the mortgage payment and various utility and insurance bills are a separate counter-argument all of their own.  Theirs is one of necessity, not of the finer things life has to offer)

I put in a steady 8 hours on Sunday, prepping, boiling and cooling both tomatoes and peaches to remove their skins and cooking up a huge vat of tomato sauce (garlic, onions, red wine, fresh basil, Italian spices, and a reduction of tomato juice, wine and more spices).  That was followed by sterilizing the jars, getting filled jars into the pressure canner and letting steam and pressure do their job sealing the jars.

After 9pm I had 12 quarts of tomato sauce and 9 quarts of peaches lined up on the kitchen counter.

The whole time I was doing this, my laptop was sitting on the kitchen table, reminding me that I had planned to finish up my current WIP that weekend.  The pulsating glow from the closed latch was like the heartbeat of that unfulfilled wish.  I even opened my WIP's document in one of the times the pressure canner's weighted pressure disc was rattling on the other side of the kitchen, hopeful that I could at least make some token progress.

Despite knowing what my character was going to do next and what elements around him were going to continue to conspire to make everything that much harder for him, I stared at the screen and came up empty.  The hissing and sputtering from the pressure valve had far more energy than I had for anything other than to slog through the rest of the canning job.

When I was younger, I wrote reams and reams of letters.  Letters are easy: they're all about me, what I'm doing, what I've seen, what I've been thinking, my reactions to all that's going on around me.  They're also easily interruptible.  Back in my Kite Site days, I'd write a letter throughout the course of a work day, in between helping customers, ringing up sales, cataloging inventory and doing window designs.

Writing fiction, I have found, requires the same concentrated energy that canning does.  Fiction is not all about me, it's about my characters.  Fiction can't easily be stopped and restarted; fiction demands the respect and attention that all good art commands.  Fiction requires a consistency that means long stretches of uninterrupted concentration, long stretches of time devoted entirely to the writing.

I'm sure there's a pressure analogy here, too, but I'm just not finding it.  : )

So, this past weekend I canned.  This week I'll resume writing, knowing that come winter, I'll have another set of good reasons to get up in the morning.

Besides, I'm sure another WIP will be calling after me, demanding time and attention as well.

(crossposted)

...
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Mr Thrifty!

Mr Thrifty!

November 2009 Chapel tHrill, NC

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In case anyone was wondering if I still take photos of anything other than our cats, here's Mr. Thrifty! (Although I'm not sure a plastic skeleton for $49.95 USD could really be considered "thrifty.")

A few, assorted thoughts on writing, BangleMania® and shows are to be had by clicking on through to the other side... )...

Writing

Apr. 11th, 2009 04:46 pm
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Self Portrait In Maggie's Eye

Self Portrait In Maggie's Eye

March 200 Outside Raleighwood, NC

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Last Friday I was listening to a really good interview with Janis Ian on WXPN.org who was promoting both her new autobiography, Society's Child, and the 2CD set of music that accompanies it. In the course of the interview Ian was asked if she had to write songs (in the Artist's sense of having to create to feel at peace). Ian responded that she had discovered that writing songs was so much the important thing for her but, rather, it was writing in general that she needed to do. She pointed to her history in writing for various publications (musical and political) as well as her more recent forays into writing Science Fiction.

I'm finding much the same to be true.

A bit more can be found by clicking on through to the other side  )
...
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Bonn & Ben @ Tupelo Honey

Bonn & Ben @ Tupelo Honey

October 2007, Asheville, NC

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A quick posting for [livejournal.com profile] bardcat.

[livejournal.com profile] bardcat will be in the mountains of North Carolina over the next many days attending a writer's conference. While there he's going to be in many of the places I've been lately, including Black Mountain and Asheville. In particular, he may be eating at the Asheville restaurant Tupelo Honey.

We were in Asheville a few weekends ago visiting our daughter and her fiance. While there we had an unexpected Sunday brunch with Ben's aunt and uncle who had driven in from Tennessee for the day just so they could meet us. (Ben's mother died a year or two ago and they're his closest living relatives. It was something of a Meet The In-Laws brunch, sprung on us at the last minute for [well-founded] fear that Bonn would obsess about the meeting so thoroughly that she might cancel our trip)

The six of us had a grand time at Tupelo Honey. I've always found the food to be so-so, but Bonn really liked her blackened fish (salmon? I can't remember now). I had the most amazing Shrimp Grits in Chapel Hill when I first started at my job and I simply must stop trying to find it again elsewhere. (It was disappointing at best at Tupelo Honey)

Still, any restaurant named for a Van Morrison song can't be all bad. Besides, the wait staff, mostly women, have more tatoos than most guys I know.

The mountains of western North Carolina are known for their brilliant, blazing colour shows in October. The Blue Ridge Parkway suddenly gets congested to a crawl with driving sight-seers desperate for a glimpse of the vistas of leaves changing colors all the way from green to yellow to orange to red.

We saw the merest of splotches of colours during our drives to the mountains last weekend. My theory ("ahem -- my theory...") is that the leaves will all go from green to brilliant colours to dead and on the ground within ten days this year.

This means [livejournal.com profile] bardcat should be in for the Nature's Colour Display of his life this week.

Write from the heart, write well and write truth, [livejournal.com profile] bardcat.

And enjoy every minute of it.

(and then share what you've learned with the rest of us!)

...
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John Hodgman @ UNC

John Hodgman @ UNC

October 2006 Chapel Thrill, NC

And, yes, this was taken with my crappy cellphone camera. The 990 is still in the shop.

____________________________________


Zjheeeeem came to my office today around mid-afternoon and said, “Bye. I’m going to disappear for a while.”

If I were an uptight kind of manager I would could have gone through the standard (Nobody Expects the) Spanish Inquisition-style questioning. Instead, I simply said, “Okay. ‘Bye!”

Zjheeeeem paused and said, “Actually, you might be interested in this. Do you know who John Hodgman is? He’s the PC in those Mac and PC commercials.”

My eyes lit up.

“Sure! He’s also on The Daily Show. What’s he doing here?”

“Well, I heard an interview on the radio with him today and he’s going to be doing a reading in the Student Center of his new book.”

As I got up to leave with him another co-worker came to my door.

“Do either of you want to go to the presentation by one of the founders of Google on the philosophy and future directions of Google? It starts in half an hour!”

Let’s see here: Minor Cultural Icon John Hodgman or some guy from The Borggle spinning their plan for world domination into something that’s supposed to sound like it’s for the good of all mankind.

No contest.

Hodgman was fantastic. He read from his book “The Areas of My Expertise,” an absolutely brilliant idea of a book -- a compendium of lists, information and assorted facts, every last bit of it unabashedly made up. He read with the standard dry demeanour that he’s become known for and paused but did not react in any way when the crowd laughed at his many outrageous bits of history and insight.

During the lengthy Q&A session someone asked him which medium he preferred working in -- radio, television, film or print.

Print, he responded. Each medium had it’s advantages and it’s draws, but writing this book was “a pure joy.” It was the most fun he’d had in a long time.

It was then that I realized I’m trying to write the wrong book.

The other day I left a longwinded comment (who, me?) in [livejournal.com profile] drood’s posting about false starts in writing. (If you aren’t reading [livejournal.com profile] drood’s lj, you should) The comment was really more of the start to a piece of hardboiled fiction that I had intended to end fairly quickly but (surprise) just kept writing.

[livejournal.com profile] drood’s response was “And your book isn’t finished why, exactly?”

I won’t bother quoting the whole exchange (that’s what his comments section for that entry are for, after all) but I realized this afternoon that I’m not writing it because it’s not fun. Writing something stupid -- like “A Clear Tract in Sin” about Nectarina St. Clair and Bryce Vancelan -- sounds like fun.

Or at least a lot less pressure to write The Perfect Social Awakening Story.

...

Last Night

May. 24th, 2006 10:40 pm
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Columbine

Columbine

April 2006 Chapel Hill, NC

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Bonn manages to stand up and is wrestling with the glass-topped patio table umbrella.  She deftly unclips it from the stand and pulls it away from the table.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

Setting the umbrella down on the ground next to her chair she motions up to the twilight sky filled with dark blues and the black outlines of the tops of pine trees in front of us.

"It's the best room in the house!" she exclaims. 

I smile back at her beaming face, wishing I was as much of an outdoor person as she is but I'm not and never have been.  It's not that I don't like the outdoors, I do, it's just that there's something about me, my pH, my sweat, my skin, my I Dunno What, that mosquitoes find deleriously enticing.  If mosquitoes were willing to just take a sample of my blood and leave me the fark alone, that would be fine.  I'd be happy to do my part to participate in the wonders of the everlasting food chain without, say, being mauled by a lion or a tiger or a Colbert Threatdown Bear.  Unfortunately, I itch like a crazed wildman, often in my sleep in the middle of the night.  Summers are usually spent with my calves and ankles scabbed and scarred with long, raked gashes that run for inches at a time.

Still, it's a nice night and I'm  hoping against hope that the squirt bottle OFF that I've liberally applied to my long shirt sleeves, long pants, shoes, the backs of my hands and neck works.  My breath, however, comes regular and easy.

The margaritas in front of us are, as I like to say, Made for Enjoyment, Not for Profit.  The store-bought chips and salsa that were supposed to be an appetizer have (surprise!) turned into dinner, along with the entire blender full of margaritas.

The boom box at the base of the back porch stairs is playing Ryan Adams and the Cardinals album "Jacksonville City Nights" loud.  LOUD.  Bonn had asked for it for her birthday, having survived several formative years in Jacksonville, NC, home of Camp LeJeune, the infamous Marine base.  The album is a bit country for me at times, but Bonn has grown to like it a lot.  Besides, given the largely redneck demographic most of our neighborhood fits nicely into, she considers it "safe" music to play loudly while she's outside working.

I'm trying to read the first chapter of Hemmingway's "A Moveable Feast" and not getting too far.  Hemmingway's writing is interesting but a bit, I dunno, annoying at times.  It could be that the brain cells necessary to comprehend and properly appreciate Hemmingway are too busy being pickled to allow me to get into it.  The other thing is that I've never read any Hemmingway.  Nor Faulkner, nor any of The Great American Authors.  You can count the number of Classics that I've read on one hand (probably).  It all stems from the summer that my guitar partner, Jeff, told me he was reading all of the Classics, all of the books he felt he should read to be well educated.  I had felt the same about most of the titles he rattled off, but I lacked the luxury of the time to do so.  At the time I was in college, working 30+ hours at night, 5 nights a week and whatever it was that struck me as being annoyingly wrong about that has managed to stick with me all of these years.

The book arrived in the mail today, a gift from one of my longest and most neglected friends, [livejournal.com profile] sakkijarvi[livejournal.com profile] sakkijarvi is the type of friend who is so good, so loyal, true and giving of himself that deep in my heart, no matter how nice a guy I try to be and am, there's a part of me who knows I don't deserve someone as great as him in my life.  He sent a wonderful note along with the book saying he'd once seen a book that he knew The Axeman would like but didn't buy it for him.  Now, with The Axeman gone,  he never can.  After reading "A Moveable Feast" he knew I needed to read it, both as a great work of writing, but also as an inspiration to write about my life.  So he sent it.  And, of course, I will read it and I will enjoy it.

The cd ends and Bonn gets up and starts playing it again.  I go into her studio and dig out The Innocence Mission's first album  and, switch out the music after Bonn listens to the first two Jacksonville songs again.  The Innocence Mission's first album was one of those that I first heard on the way home from my closing shift at a record store.  When I got home to Bonn I told her she had to listen to the album now.  I've had a long history with the album and it's still a favorite.

Halfway through the album Bonn is getting cold.  Usually I'm the one who feels the chills first, but after all, I am wearing long sleeves.  It's dark by now and the cats are starting to want us inside as well.  Their Beautiful Little Routine involves us being inside and settling down for the night so they can all beat us into the bed and we're just not cooperating fast enough. 

We blow out the candles, stack up the plates, newspaper and my new bound inspiration for reading, for writing, and head in for the night.

...
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Blurred Trees

Blurred Trees

December 2005

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One of the things I value about my LJ community are the comments left to my entries, especially the ones that ask questions and/or spur on further thoughts on whatever subject I've been rambling on and on about.  I'm sure some of you are occasionally surprised (i.e. 'stunned into silence') by the length of some of my responses to what seem fairly simple questions.  To me, however, those questions help me dig through some of the junk I have piled up in my head surrounding a problem.

A few entries back, for instance, I wrote about my years spent at The Kite Site writing letter after letter, how easy these entries are to write and, by contrast, how bloody difficult writing my Victorian novel is.  Somewhere in the midst of writing answers to comments and thinking about it all further I came to a very simple realization. 

All of my previous years of writing have helped me to develop my 'voice.'  However, that voice is fine for certain things -- these entries, other writings I've done and will do, but not for the Victorian novel.  My biggest problem with that novel is not knowing what to write, but not knowing how to say them.  I have no voice for the type of writing I want this book to be -- at least not yet.

Realizing this is the problem is something of a relief to me.  It's not that I can't write, I can.  I've had years and  years of experience in writing all sorts of things.  Rambling letters, LJ entries, no problem.  Official letters, complaints, grants, not a problem.  I have those voices down just fine.  I just have to stop worrying so much about this novel and start listening to the voices in my head until I hear one that works for this story.

(And don't tell me you don't hear those kind of voices in your heads, too)

I think it's time for some more stories here in these entries.  I need to lighten up some for myself.

...
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Letterboxes

Letterboxes

February 2006 Chapel Hill, NC

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I wish I could say my silence here as been due to long nights of tireless keyboard tapping as the Victorian novel has been taking shape, the story practically writing itself.  I truly wish I was falling asleep, slumped over my keyboard with my fingers red and raw, the keys making a very odd impression on my face throughout the night.

That would, however, imply that more than 200 words have been added to the manuscript.

See, last week The Boy returned for Spring Break, bringing the usual difficult weather with him.  For the first few days it was confined to him simply creating and leaving messes.  By mid-week it was clear we were "not meeting his needs nor expectations" and by Friday his face was less than an inch from my face and he was screaming at me, wanting oh-so-despirately for me to throw the first punch. 

Instead, we informed him that he was not to return to our home without an expressed invitation to do so.  And that such an invitation was not going to be forthcoming for the summer.

By Saturday the weight of his actions had settled in on him and he had a long talk with Bonn in the living room.  I'm glad they were able to discuss things and that he was able to apologize to her for his actions (although he didn't do so to me).  I'm also glad he knows he's not coming back here for the summer regardless of how positive their discussion was.

The day job side of things is being busy.  Trainers are here for the week on the new system that's going live on May 1st.  I'm sitting in on the training sessions because I'm Project Manager (woo hoo) and, thanks to several cups of very strong tea, I'm not snoring my way through the sessions.

The CoolPix is back and I've been taking pictures on my regular walks.  Such a nice thing to have working again.  In fact, I did a Stock Image-like shot for them that's going to be used as part of the cover image for a book coming out sometime this year.  I wish it was something more artistic, but I suppose a book cover photo credit is a book cover photo credit.

...
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1925

1925

February 2006 Raleigh, NC

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When I sit down to type out an entry, say, like this one, I simply sit and I type.  The words flow fairly easily, with few hesitations or concerns.  I think, I type.  Pretty simple, really.  People I used to write letters to told that my writing reads much the way I talk (to me this means "full of grandeous self-importance, occasional humor and overly long complex sentences that make me really glad I never learned how to diagram a sentence because I might feel bad about how overly long and awkward they really were.") which I regarded as a compliment.

So then why is "real" writing so dangedably difficult?

I'll spare you the whining, or click on through to the other side if you'd like... )

...
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Old Connections

Old Connections

October 2005 Myrtle Beach, SC

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Hiding in the back of the junk shop/antiques mall we went in on the Mandatory Fun weekend trip was this old telephone switchboard. It was clearly from a North Carolina exchange -- the city names listed were all prominent North Carolina towns -- and had seen better days. Still, it was a fascinating piece of history to be able to examine and photograph.

Two more are over at the flickr account, should you be interested.

I've been spending time going over the re-write of an old blog entry to eventually send it off somewhere to see if I can get it published. It's a long, tedious process made all that much more difficult by the fact that I'm consciously trying to write instead of just writing. It's coming off as short, clipped and pretentious -- not at all the effect I'm trying to achieve.

Probably time to set it aside for a while.

On the way back from last weekend's show I had a long, barren stretch of I-85 through Virginia and North Carolina where Bonn was asleep to think about the the Victorian-era kids book. I've have a beginning and an ending, but the middle has plagued me. I thought through how some of the dots could/should be connected and by the time we got home and Bonn woke up I had enough of it settled in my mind that I was ready to start outlining chapters. Which I've started.

In other news, after a long, dry spell, I finally have another job interview tomorrow. It's for a management position with a local university press, running their small IT department. My previous job with [livejournal.com profile] zombiefodder and (the soon to be departing this area) [livejournal.com profile] pilote put me in good stead for this, I'm sure.

The woman arranging the interview said I should schedule 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the interview. I asked if there was anything I should bring with me. She paused for a second or two and finally said, meekly, "Chocolate?"

I asked if she had tried Dark Chocolate M&Ms and when she said no but was intrigued, I offered to bring some with me to the interview.

We went out and found four hard-to-find bags in amongst the post-Halloween discounted candy. Anything to stand out from the crowd.

...
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Water in a Web

Water in a Web

October 2005 Raleigh, NC

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A show last weekend and a show this weekend has made for two weeks of very late nights. The not enough sleep at night has meant that my lunch break has turned into nap break in my car. Mix in lots of caffeine and I've be almost able to make it through the days without falling asleep at my desk.

American culture gets lots of things just plain wrong. A mere two weeks of vacation time and a complete lack of sanctioned siestas and no wonder we're cranky and taking it out on the rest of the world.

Of course, Stephen Colbert has his own theories on things. Lucky for you, you can either watch them on Comedy Central's website devoted to "The Colbert Report" or sign up for the LJ feed. (I recommend his Word of the Day segment)

A side story on why I think I can get published? Click on through to the other side... )

...
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Lamppost

Lamppost

October 2005 Raleigh, NC

____________________________________


This past weekend I had the honor of reviewing [livejournal.com profile] drood's latest manuscript.  It was a last check before he submitted it to his editor for publication and I was checking it for any obvious errors -- spelling, duplicated words, timeline inconsistencies, etc.  It took a good chunk of time to go through, making numerous comments and doing some background fact-checking of my own at certain points. 

For instance, did you know that "What's My Line" was shown on Sunday nights at 10:30pm and that you can actually find out who the panelists and guests were for each individual broadcast aired?  There's even a yahoo group devoted to the show. (the moderator of which graciously confirmed those two points for me)

And you'll have to read the book to figure out what the heck those facts have to do with anything.  (How's that for a plug from a loyal DONK?)

Doing all of that work with the printed word (okay, the typed word) showed me two things: one, that I could carve out some time during the week to do so work with writing if I really wanted to and, two, I really want to.

So I've been going over the two short story-like pieces that I had been working on but put up for a while.  After a bit of distance I'm seeing that some of the editorial changes that I had thought were going to be necessary really are necessary.  (Lopping off the beginning paragraphs of each piece, for instance)

Once they're done I need to spend some time in the local college libraries going through some of the relatively obscure literary magazines to try and match up my pieces with some publications that might consider publishing them.  At the same time, it's really time to start biting the bullet and get back to work mapping out the Victorian-age kid's novel I've been putting off writing  for far too long.

I only wish I had greater confidence in my writing and my ability to tell a (long) story.

Practice and patience.

...

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