Saturday, May 4, 2013

Well, ended up with about 37k words--now to do something with them, or start over from scratch.

Valuable experience in that I confirmed, at least to myself, that I could pump out the wordcount if needed.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

10k words a day, Day #1, 8k/10k

MY HANDS

MY WRISTS

THEY BURNNNN

I've never typed this much before.  Just have 2k words to chew out after this break and my quota--the words, like vermin to be trapped--will be met.  Five more days and this monster of a novel should be done.


Friday, April 26, 2013

progress, etc

Still grinding away at my YA novel.  I suppose it'll be YA because I don't see any other category supporting it, the main character is pretty young, and it doesn't need to be 80k+ words.

Haven't written a short story in a long, long time.  But I really want to finish a novel, before moving on.  It feels like a hurdle of sorts I'll need to cross, at least for the experience of writing one.

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Finished Gun Machine by Warren Ellis.

Gun Machine--which starts with the death of a cop and the discovery of a room filled with murder weapons--has this problem of lacking urgency, of tension being bled out by the minutiae of small encounters, of the premise itself missing mystery.  It's obvious from rather early on just what happened, and will happen.  What keeps it moving are the characters--their chatter and the way they turn out is thoroughly enjoyable and it's what kept me reading the book.  I'm not sure if it's something I'd ever recommend it to anyone, but for the two or so evenings I spent going through it, it wasn't a bad way to pass the time.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

quick hits

Read through John Green's Paper Towns recently.  It's a book about moving on, but there's no real cost associated with that passage, no price exacted for change.  It's a shift in setting with all the old safety valves intact.  The book lacks impact--and I kinda hated most of the characters, who felt as fake as the paper towns and people they derided, like caricatures of hip, nerdy teens, who aren't popular . . . but kinda are . . . aren't that handsome . . . but are . . . y'know?  Disappointing read.  I do want to check out Fault in Our Stars at some point.

Also read Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which was, as usual, excellent.  It is so tightly constrained, the perspective that of a camera tethered, essentially, to Cromwell's back.  There's an almost claustrophobic feel to it but the writing is so assured that the pacing feels just right, despite it being devoted to the space of weeks, rather than most of a lifetime, as was the case for the previous novel, Wolf Hall.  Great read.

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Played through Bioshock Infinite.  Good game brought down by it being a 'Bioshock' game.  In a better world we'd appreciate its art and perhaps navigate all the racial and societal tensions it touches upon but never explores.  

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Haven't been sending out stories . . . losing energy, because I just can't find the time it seems.  Not that I don't have the time, it's just that by the time I finish writing, I don't have the motivation to go on.  Writing, that is, my novel, which I have no hopes for but kinda push on with anyways.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Close Range, Annie Proulx


I feel bad that I'd not read Proulx before this.  Some incredible prose in the stories, themselves full of . . . brutality?  Beauty?  Their starkness reminds me of McCarthy, but without slipping out of the conventions of grammar or straying into self-parody.  The writing is just so good.

"Brokeback Mountain" is probably the most famous story here, but both the beginning and the end of "People in Hell Just Want a Drink of Water" blew me away.

Dangerous and indifferent ground: against its fixed mass the tragedies of people count for nothing although the signs of misadventure are everywhere.  No past slaughter nor cruelty, no accident nor murder that occurs on the little ranches or at the isolate crossroads with their bare populations of three or seventeen, or in the reckless trailer courts of mining towns delays the flood of morning light.  Fences, cattle, roads, refineries, mines, gravel pits, traffic lights, graffiti'd celebration of athletic victory on bridge overpass, crust of blood on the Wal-Mart loading dock, the sun-faded wreaths of plastic flowers marking death on the highway are ephemeral.  Other cultures have camped here a while and disappeared.  Only earth and sky matter.  Only the endlessly repeated flood of morning light.  You begin to see that God does not owe us much beyond that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Drowned Cities, Paolo Bacigalupi


Let me start with the good: the beginning is enjoyable stuff.  The familiar weirdness of the setting, the situation  that the heroine (Mahlia) is in, her friendship with Mouse, the history of the land and the people within it, and their current situation - living in a small village at the edge of the war-torn 'drowned cities', only there due to the intervention of Dr. Mahfouz, a kind man who has taken them in - all are sketched out quickly and with minimal exposition.  Mahlia, at this point, is both resourceful and naive; experience in the art of survival, but not much else, and her paranoia honed by the horrors she's survived, alluded to repeatedly in various memories and flashbacks that pepper the narrative.  When violence finally visits their village, it ends quickly and brutally, a hugely transformative experience for the characters - there's something of an elegiac quality to how it ends, and how it segues into the second half of the book, thus titled 'The Drowned Cities.'



The second half shifts to the Drowned Cities themselves, and good god, after that halfway point, how is it that almost every female in the book is either getting raped, about to be raped, or has already been raped and killed?  The heroine of the story is no exception to this; whenever she is captured, two things happen - she thinks about how her mother was raped to death, and then prepares herself for the rape and torture to come, before one of the boys/men in the story saves her.  The only woman who isn't or hasn't been raped is a slaver of sorts (appearing for about a page or so) who tries to catch the heroine so she can be sold as a sex slave (as is insinuated) to the soldiers in the cities. All the other women are nameless, faceless.  Occasionally they are described in the process of being brutalized, the 'nailshed girls' who are trying to please the men, or running away from the men, often with their clothes falling off.

And the author seems aware of this, too: there's a passage later on where one of the soldiers mentions that hey, girls are totally fine as soldiers too!  He even knew one!  She was as crazy as the men until she tripped up a mine!  But outside of that single mention, we don't see a single female soldier.  It feels so unlikely given what we read of the brutal treatment leveraged against all women in the story, throughout the book.  Its inclusion feels as perfunctory as the ending, where he's rushing to fit in the end before the allotted space runs out.

Mixed feelings about the book, in the end.  I was entertained, but left with more doubts than I'd expected.



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Schlachthof-fünf

Finished Slaughterhouse-Five again.  First re-read since highschool; even more wonderful than I remembered.  Getting addicted to revisiting works I loved in the past--whether it's the incremental accumulation of maturity or just the perspective of seeing it in a new light, a work like this is always rewarding.


That said I wonder at the potential inherent in shorter works--it's been drilled into me that a novel should usually be 90k, 100k words+; that and the childhood spent reading mostly bible-sized tomes, from Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, et al.  But there's so much to be said in a spare 50k words.  And if Vonnegut could say so much in such short space, why not, say, a YA novel?