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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dreams, or, Our Crazy Minds in the Night

I’m a dreamer, in many senses of the word.  I think about doing stuff a lot more than I actually accomplish stuff.  I also dream wildly at night, and, more often than not, I remember it.  I’m not generally a lucid dreamer, though on occasion I’ve had dreams so realistic they’ve influenced my day.  Once, in high school, I went to class ready to show off a new ring I’d gotten.  Opened my mouth almost before I realized it had been a dream.  I can still picture the ring in my head, gold with green enamel leaves circling my finger much like the Roman laurel wreaths seen on coins and statues and historically (in)accurate movies.

Last night, though, I had a dream that was so complicated, I can’t even make sense of it in my mind.  I have neither a strong concept of the progression of the dream, the chronological order.  Even if I did, that wouldn’t really help link such random events together.

My dreams have a number of repeating themes.  I am often in college, or at least at a college.  I don’t know that I would list college as the best time of my life, because there was definitely stress involved that was unpleasant.  But I suppose I could look back upon it and say it was more idyllic and somewhat more productive than my life now.  (I often say I would rather not be younger than I am.  It would not be any easier the second time around, even knowing what I know now.)

So, at some point, I was in college.  There was some sort of experiment going on down at the lake.  I was watching, very near the water, on a sort of retaining wall like the ones on artificial canals.  There was a boat in front of me on the water, and an enclosed bit of water behind me to my right.  It must have been a slip.  People were fishing there, but suddenly a huge fish caught my eye swimming very near the surface of the water.  I watched it circle around in front of me as if it couldn’t swim away.  It was a shark, one with a gigantic mouth (but not the rows of teeth like a great white).  I realized it was on the line of the fisherpeople behind me.  I stood and backed away from the edge of the water.  They slowly reeled it in (well, likely much more quickly than a shark would actually be reeled in).

I went back up to one of the main campus buildings.  It had a wall full of windows in the front, a huge entranceway with marble stairs, and the feel of a museum or a theater.  I went up only a couple of stairs and through a door on the right.  There was a hallway there that twisted quite a bit, but I knew where I was going.  I saw a couple of other students waiting to go into class.  I detoured to the bathroom.

Bathrooms, quite reasonably, are another theme recurring in my dreams.  I could write a book just about strange bathrooms, both in real life and in my dreams.  Maybe make a game out of it: is this one real, or just a figment of my imagination.

The bathroom was labyrinthine, with several rooms, changing alcoves, long lines of stalls, locker rooms, a bowling alley.  Yep, went to the bowling alley.  To marry a demon.  And I was no longer me, I was Poppy Z. Brite.  Wearing a gothy bustier and a dark tulle skirt and with a bloody human heart stuffed down the bodice for safekeeping.

And I just don’t quite know what to say about that.

Many elements of my dreams I can tie to things that happened the day before, or at least recently.  Saw a Facebook post about one of my friends Wii bowling.  Thus, bowling alley.  It’s October and I’m definitely in a Halloween mood, thus the demon, outfit, heart (I hope).  I check Poppy Z. Brite’s blog regularly, and I did before bed last night.  I haven’t watched Beetlejuice in a while, either, but I suppose I still remember it.

But, really, brain, did I need to remember all of these things?  Dreaming is linked to making new memories, but there are plenty of things I don’t mind forgetting.  Is it really important to walk down a bowling lane, with a human heart in my hands as my bouquet, just so I’m not surprised when I reread the post about Wii bowling?

The only bonus, sometimes, is my brain generating useful images for my writing that my conscious brain would never fabricate.  Without that dream last night, I would never have known the press of a heart muscle against the outside of my ribs, under a tight-laced bustier.  And while not knowing that feeling is probably quite sane, creatively I find it very interesting.

And it brings up questions.  Why might someone marry a demon?  Why the human heart and where did it come from?  Is it a sort of offering, a dowry?  Who the hell would perform the ceremony?  Could you claim married on your income taxes?  Would you have to move to Hell?  Into an infernal tower on the shores of Lake Cocytus?  And this gives me ideas that I could write about.

I swear, I’m a completely normal person.

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Posted by on October 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Names, baby and otherwise…

I was watching my youtube subscriptions today, which really only includes the Vlogbrothers.  Yes, folks, I am a Nerdfighter.  And I have a stupid little author-crush on John Green.  This is partly because he’s a little geeky, has fun hair, and mostly because he’s totally unavailable.  Don’t you judge me.

So this week, he responded to a vlog survey in which one of the questions would be “What would you name your kids?”  He answered Gatsby, though his wife had enough sense to direct him to Henry (which is a surprisingly cute name for a toddler).   And while I don’t intend to have children, I am rather obsessed with names.  Character names, specifically, but I find the names real people are given are sometimes even crazier than ones I would give an imaginary character.  Either way, curiously, the bestowment lasts a lifetime.

I have characters I can place in my life twenty years ago at age fifteen.  I wrote over a hundred pages (and that might have been single-spaced, I’d have to look) of a story I had in my head during my sophomore year of high school.  I wrote during study hall, mostly, when I could get to the quiet of the library.  I carried it around in a pink binder with lots of stickers and some notes written in it from some of my friends.  The two main characters were Nathan Rondeau and a girl named Chelsea (which I spelled it Chelsae because I just didn’t know, I was 15, I liked it better that way even when I found out the truth).  There was also a Billy and a Mike, and a Tam (short for Tamara).  I’d have to look up Chelsea’s twin sister’s name, which is sad because that poor girl totally got the short end of the stick.  And now I (God, to her) can’t even remember her name.

And now none of my other characters will likely ever be called Nathan, because that, to me, is who Nathan is.  He is a descendant of a line going back to Atlantis, around the world, and back again.  His child suffers from a fiery temperament and a divorce, has a son named Jordan who marries someone (Alana) from the repopulated fragment of Atlantis against her mother’s wishes and they go into hiding together.

I screwed up a lot of lives in this epic idea.  But the story as I wrote it was only about Nathan, though I had some down about Jordan and Alana.  Most of my work was epic genealogies and notes and a brain bursting with ideas.  Did I mention the protector race of white tigers?  Yeah, I was fifteen.

But knowing that this name with stick with a character whether I get anywhere with the story or not makes me quite crazy about giving them the right names in the first place.  Which brings me to Ethne’s story.  Hers is the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2010.  Her character had evolved out of nothing and eventually usurped a character named Patrice in a short story I wrote in college.  I had lukewarm feelings for Patrice, hastily conceived and named, no real strong convictions, so it was just as well for her to fade away.  Ethne, however, is instantly recognizable in my mind.  I can see her when I say the name to myself.  I’d heard the name in The Four Feathers, a classic book (though I admit my familiarity with it is because it was a Heath Ledger movie).  The name is a form of Athene, or Athena, but I’ve come to prefer the letter E over A these last few years.  (Age teens and 20s had characters Alana and Annaliese, mind.)

Ethne’s name, once the character had grown, was glued on.  The problem was figuring out her ghostly boyfriend’s name.  It was a super freaking mess trying to pin down his name.  It was like the bastard was teasing me, not telling me, or saying, “Guess.  It starts with…. J.”  And I would guess, “Jeremy.  No, too Pearl Jam.  Hmm.  Jeremiah?  No, too long, would call you Jer, and that’s too close to Jerry.  Definitely not.”  And that asshole would just grin and taunt and smirk because he had a name I’d never heard of.  And then I heard of it!  There’s a computer guy in the NaNoWriMo office named Jezra.  I saw it on the site one day when they were introducing the gang or something, and absolutely had my lightbulb moment.  Rumplestiltskin!  Ah ha!

Jezra sulked a bit that his game was over.  And just so you don’t think he has extremely unlikely parents, it’s his gothy take on a nickname for his longer one, Jeremiah Zachariah, which is a mouthful for a little kid.  As for the breathing Jezra, I don’t know what his deal is.  Maybe his parents mis-overheard it at a bowling alley like a Krisha I know.  Or maybe they thought it sounded vaguely Biblical, like a weird combo of Jael and Ezra.  Or maybe they just liked the letters J and Z, like Brangelina likes the letter X.

I have one character I haven’t named yet, who has been in my head for several years but I can’t pin him down either.  He’s not taunting like Jezra was.  He’s more so boring that nothing sticks to him; it just falls off like a glob of thrown oatmeal.  And I think that’s why I have had a problem with him.  I shouldn’t think one of my own characters is so boring that he can’t even be bothered to be named.  What does that say for the story?  The only name that has stuck so far is David, which is a perfectly respectable name, though rather dull.  Especially when his love interest would be named Blythe-and-bonny in a rather obnoxious tribute by her mother to Shakespeare.  She goes by Bly or Blythe.

I will grant that I go a bit crazy on the names.  When writing urban fantasy, or especially regular fantasy, sometimes you have a little more leeway to pick a name that’s much more interesting.  Still, I want it to be memorable and hopefully not annoying.  (Like Wrath and Vishous (sic(k)) and that would a whole other extremely negative post that I’ll try to ignore because it works me up like the impossibility of time travel.)

Mostly, I try to be at least original in my own head.  It’s a comfort knowing that Diego and Annaliese and Galen will always be themselves, and Rick will always be short for Dietrick and not for Richard.  There will not be another character infringing on the nomenclature of another.  Too confusing.  And even Michael and Alex are spoken for.  (I had such an affinity for the name Alexander back in the day, I would have named someone Alex in every story.  And Nicholas, though no Nicks currently exist.)  I could talk about names for another thousand words, but my point is past made.

And should I ever deign to actually procreate, as if I had attention enough for a real child with such ever-increasing numbers of people who count on me for their very existence in my brain, she would be named Emily, he would be named Jimmy (James).

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The back of the book…

NaNoWriMo is only 25 days away.  I’ve nowhere near accomplished the work on other things, and soon I’ll set it all aside to do something crazy and fantastic for the third year in a row.  Last year was tough.  I’m apparently not a pantser, yet I’m not the best at making a plan.  More often than not, I would never make an outline for anything I wrote, even long research papers in school, unless I specifically had to turn one in for the assignment.  I think they’re a great idea, and I wish I could really plan things out that way.  I think I really need them when I write a long piece, to both keep myself on track with where I’m going with the story, and also to keep motivated day after day.  If I know what I’m going to write, and don’t need to wait for an idea or inspiration, it goes much more smoothly.

That is something I learned in two NaNoWriMo months.  I don’t think that I knew that about myself in either high school or college (where I majored in English with a writing emphasis).  And this is where I need an outline when I write, because I am completely off the topic and far from the point I wanted to make.

With NaNoWriMo only 25 days away, I’ve been checking their blogs more frequently and just tonight went to the website and looked at my profile.  I reread the description I had up for my 2010 novel and I thought, “If only that was the novel I ended up writing!”

Oh, I guess I was always making my point.  How unusual of me.

I wrote the description and thought it was a bit slapshot at the time, somewhat over-generalized and, while not inaccurate, not quite a representation of the plot I had in my head.  The elements were all truthful, but some of the scenes didn’t work as I had planned and the logic didn’t quite solidify in the finished work.  I realized as I reread the paragraph, though, that this was exactly how I would want this book to be described on its back cover.  And also, that this was how I had really wanted the book to turn out.

I think that, as I consider revisions, I should keep this paragraph front and center as I edit, forming my corrections to the content as described.  I should look at this paragraph and list the ways I deviated from my vision, and scenes or lines I might add in to shift the book back to where it should be.

I suppose this is how editing works, really, but I’ve never had such a clear line to judge by before.  Mostly, my “books” are just jumbled scenes in my head that come out in no particular order.  They’re daydreams and thoughts that help me put aside the stresses of the day so I can sleep.  And here’s a punchy, if not perfect, paragraph I could use to refocus, sell, and promote this book.

(I have an urge to say “Shit just got real.”)

As an added bonus, here is the paragraph:

Ethne is the world’s cutest Curia exorcist.  Blonde and petite, she kicks demon ass and shows ghosts the Door.  However, she can’t make her undead partner Stellan get along with her dead boyfriend Jezra.  Vampire-Curia relations are in a steady decline, making working with Stellan even more politically incorrect.  And now she’s run across a ghost that won’t leave its house; not to mention it’s annoyingly smug that Ethne seems to have lost her Key to the Door.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Not reading, barely functioning

Had a day back at work today, but I’m off tomorrow.  It’s a funny way to come back from vacation, but it gives me the feeling of one more day.  Got my yearly review, and while all went well from it, even the praise made me feel uneasy.  Don’t want them expecting more from me or anything.

Other than that, it was a rather uneventful day.  I caught up what I missed not being there a week, and came home and watched the first episode of Dexter for the season.  That’s some seriously messed up stuff, there.  Love it.  I haven’t really been reading lately, but the Dexter books have been on my list for a while.  There’s something unaccountably quirky about them that just intrigues me.  However, since I’ve had a book sitting on my desk since the start of my vacation that I haven’t touched, not to mention a 100 page story on my e-reader that I’ve been (ever so slowly) working through, my reading list will not get much shorter.  Which reminds me, I saw a book I thought looked interesting the other day, but I never did make a note of it.  I ought to go download a sample (to cozy up to the 50 other samples cluttering up my library) just so I remember I wanted to read it.

Whoops, tried to do that and can’t remember the title.  Oh, no, I actually did.  It’s not available as a nookbook.  Really James Lovegrove?  No e-book?  Oh, I see, a Kindle book.  Thanks, Solaris.  I’ll just have to read my other book instead for now.  Blood and Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow is the book sitting on my desk.  I just love the title.  Yes, I know that shows my cute little goth insides, but there is something about the title that just slithers inside my brain quite delightfully.  I’ve had other books edited by Datlow over the years, and I’ve grown to like anthologies of short stories more (in my old age).  I find something interesting about giving a loose topic to ten or twenty writers and seeing where their brains go.  There’s always something interesting and clever that turns up, some new take that maybe isn’t enough for a novel, but the idea is brilliant in a short story.

I used to dislike short stories.  I always wanted more than just a few pages.  It didn’t matter if the story was concluded, or that it was wrapped up so neatly in its tiny package.  I wanted to see more.  I remember reading “Harrison Bergeron” by Vonnegut in high school and really being taken by it.  By college, Vonnegut was one of the few authors whose short stories I really enjoyed.  I did a paper on some of the other stories in Welcome to the Monkey House.  It’s kind of amazing the amount of world contained in just a few sentences sometimes.  I can only aspire to that.

I feel distracted now, having gone to read the story and now have a clanging in my head disjointing my thoughts.  🙂

One of the points I wanted to make today was my inability to be decisive.  So many of my decisions are made with no real intent.  I didn’t do anything much on my vacation because I never got around to doing anything.  I didn’t decide to do nothing, or to rent movies and stay in bed all day.  I simply put off making a decision to go to the video store, and by default, decided not to do so.  I put off deciding to write, and thus flipped through channels on the television, unable to find something I wanted to watch enough to sit through commercials.  At one point I did decide to go to the craft store, but my last entry discussed what resulted then.

And my inability to finish a novel or two?  More than lacking the decision-making skills to firmly decide that I want to write and want to publish and want to make something of my life, I lack the ability to decide exactly what happens to my characters.  Even at the point of editing (because, if nothing else, NaNoWriMo has given me two basic manuscripts on which to work, though I lost half of one due to not backing up) I cannot decide what to change and what to keep.  I cannot decide if I should add more characters to make things more interesting, to give the book more conflict and more plot or if I should leave the story as is.  I can’t decide whether to put some characters I’ve planned in earlier, or take them out of the ending.  I don’t think I want to have them just show up at the end; that’s too Deus ex machina.  Here’s characters you know nothing about coming in to save the day.

As I edit through, I print out and set aside chapters I consider done.  I look at them and think that there’s little more I can cut, nothing more I need to add, and try to make a decision.  But then I get two chapters later and think I ought to add this or that to chapter one, or add a prologue, or …

And my question becomes, when am I done?  When will each little decision take hold, announce itself king, and bend the other instances to its will?  When will I know each decision I’ve made is the right one?

Of course, when I was in school, I was bored when I didn’t have a challenge.  And now I’m complaining about the very thing.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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I just got back from my vacation, and all I got was this stupid blog post…

Yeah, that title is just about right.  I just had eight days off and all I did was get caught up on my episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  Oh, and there was a Firefly marathon today on the Science Channel.  Other than that, I stayed up until four reading Cracked.com and playing Angry Birds.  It was an immensely shameful waste of eight days of my life.  And today I was so exhausted from doing nothing, I dozed on the sofa around suppertime.

Generally, I take vacations because I simply have to get away from work.  I get to a point where I’m dreaming of work, upset about every little thing that happens at work (and while I wouldn’t say my job is stress-free, most of my stress is self-imposed), and wake at five in the morning even on days I don’t have to work until two in the afternoon.  I simply get to a point where I have to be in control of my own time or I will go stark raving mad.

The problem comes when I get to be in control of my own time.  I do nothing.  I drag myself out of bed at ten (or eleven, or noon, and once, one), turn on the computer and see what has happened in the world since three am the night before, bring a bowl of cereal back into bed, and perhaps drag myself into the shower by two.  After the taxing work of showering and dressing, I plop in my chair and rest, watching Ina Garten, or Giada, or if it’s much later, whoever the heck is on after Rachel Ray.  It doesn’t actually matter.

I may wrangle an actual meal sometime during this point.  I’m good at making breakfast, pancakes or eggs.  I think I may have boiled some eggs last weekend and had egg salad.  I thought about doing more but, while I love to WATCH cooking shows, I don’t generally cook.  I’ll bake sometimes, Christmas cookies or banana bread or something, but that’s about it.

Then I watch television until Jeopardy is on, and flip between that and the Simpsons.  And then soon, it’s prime time, and all the new shows are on.  By then it’s also dark, and if I’ve opened the shades, I at least got to see a little sunshine.  Which reminds me, I ought to start taking my vitamins again.

The point being, that once it’s dark, I figure the day is over and I don’t do anything constructive then either.  Sometimes this is not the case.  I like to clean the kitchen around nine or ten, load the dishwasher, things like that.  Even take out the garbage, which is my least favorite chore ever.  Seriously, I should not utterly loathe something that takes less than five minutes to accomplish once a week.  It’s stupid.  I don’t even have a reason for hating it.  I’m just too lazy to walk to the side of the parking lot with the dumpsters.  (This from someone who once dragged an entire couch out the front door, all around the building, and back to the dumpsters by herself.)

Jeez, I really, really need to start taking my vitamins again.

To be fair to myself, I laid around entirely the first two days this week, then at some point, I did make it to the craft store (more about that later) and went to the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay with my mom to see the Anne Frank photo exhibit they had there.  It was entirely my mom’s idea.  She must be getting sick of shopping like we usually do after lunch (fine with me, cuz I’m always broke) and this is the second museum thing we’ve done this summer.  The first was the Doty cabin in either Neenah or Menasha.  Or kinda between.  On the lake, anyway.  (It’s also funny to not really remember, since there was some Neenah-Menasha rivalry in the Doty story.)  At any rate, I hadn’t been to the Neville Public Museum since I was in school, and I still think that someday that damn mastodon is gonna come alive and trample me.  Though it wasn’t quite as large as I remember it.  Whatever, I’m lucky I didn’t have nightmares about it this week.

So on Wednesday, vacation half over, I decided to go to the craft store and self-medicate my laziness with expensive pills of scrapbooking paper and stickers.  (I don’t scrapbook, I just hoard Halloween papers.)  While there, gorging on the pretty, pretty thrills of a page full of ravens and skull key stickers, I started to feel a pain in my stomach.  Now, I’m no stranger to gastrointestinal distress, but it usually isn’t in my stomach and it’s usually not a constant pain like this, no nausea at all, just pain.  In fact, I only remember ever before feeling like this once, and it had unpleasant results.  And I’m currently a twenty-minute drive from home.

I am no stranger to road rage.  I bitch and sometimes scream with the best of them.  Of course, it probably looks like I’m rocking out to a totally hardcore song (that’s NOT Weird Al), but I can get pretty growly.  I don’t, however, typically just scream at the top of my lungs loud enough that the car ahead of me can actually hear me.  But in the twenty minutes in the car, my “huh, my stomach is kinda uncomfortable,” turned to “get out of my @#$%^&*( way so I can puke or die or whatever the %^&* will stop this pain!”

And while it wasn’t a pleasant pain, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  I was being a tad melodramatic, in an effort to keep my mind occupied.  Singing along to the radio had disappeared fast, and breathing and counting had gotten old.  So, screaming.

I made it safely home without driving through anyone, and threw up and felt almost instantly improved.  I laid around and watched a DVD I’ve had from Netflix since May.  (It even went back in the mail today, so sorry to whoever might have had “freaking long wait” on their list!)  Around suppertime, I hadn’t felt any pain or illness, so I decided to try to eat a little something.

Two hours later, I realized that had been a mistake.  Took two bouts to remedy that bad decision.  Whether food poisoning, or flu, I felt better Thursday.  Was hesitant to eat, but when some standard chicken noodle stayed settled and the discomfort of it was tolerable, managed to make it to the grocery store for ginger ale and these peanut butter cup cookies that was really all I wanted to eat.  Watched some movies (which was actually more than I’d done all week) and had an excuse to lay around because now the muscles under my ribs ached.

Friday I did laundry, including all my bedding, just so I could say I did as much on my (entire) vacation as I might do on a day off during a workweek.  Then I condemned myself, buried under a shit-ton of guilt for doing nothing constructive all week.  I neither wrote nor picked up a book to read.  So much for that edit-a-chapter-a-day nonsense I’d been trying to talk myself into.  That’s what this blog should really be about.  A million and one ways to procrastinate working on a novel.  (Epic-length blog-post about doing nothing and then being sick is number 7.)

At any rate, it is only a month to NaNoWriMo, and I saw a post about a blog post a day for a month being good training for it.  Damn straight, I need training!  Not sure I’ll get anywhere farther than this on that training, but I can’t know unless I start.  (Except I suppose that since I technically started this on 10-2, I’m already a day behind.)

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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