Month: June 2010

Howdy, gang!

A quick note today, as Furnace Girl, The Muffin and I are still in the sleep-now, sleep-later throes of Lag de Jet, among other things.

In the last few days, we’ve discovered that hotel life isn’t for the faint of heart, and we’re in the process of learning a canoe-full of wonderful things about this place called Sicily.  Oh, and we’ve been looking for a place to live too.  Mustn’t forget that little item on the Honey-Do list.

So today, I’d like to direct your attention out the windows on the right side of the WSMG tour bus to a (pretty amazing, if you ask me) post by the Authoress where she lays down the most persuasive argument I’ve yet read/heard for making writing a career, not just a hobby.

If you haven’t had a chance to stop by and follow Miss Snark’s First Victim, you really should.  The Authoress consistently dispenses cut-straight-to-the-bone pointers like the wisdom in the post above, and she hosts a number of fun writing contests and critique sessions sure to expand the knowledge of even the most erudite among you.  I know I always walk away with a useful nugget or two.

Be sure to stop by and say hello.  Oh, and one other thing: how you doin’ on this fine June Tuesday?  :)

Much is afoot!  By some miracle or conjunction of the planetary spheres, my wife’s and daughter’s Italian visas were delivered early this morning to our current address by armed escort, complete with helicopter and fixed-wing aircover, mustachioed and sunglassed security guards and a reed thin gentleman with speckled-trout eyes who kept repeating the words “It is time…” over and over again in an oily voice.

OK, OK.  It was actually just the FEDEX guy, but it was pretty durn exciting anyway!  It means we can depart for Sicily as a family unit this evening, which is not only fabulously cool, but is an eleven on the one-to-ten “Phew!” scale!

As we leave U. S. soil enroute to a new life overseas, it seems appropriate to stand and reflect on where we’ve come from, where we’re going.  This blog has been a big part of my life since January, when I was living out of a single-wide in the middle of Baghdad, feeling like I’d never get home, and scribbling daily in the hopes that words would lead me out of the desert and toward a new life.  It’s funny, but that is exactly what has happened, and I couldn’t be more satisfied.

Along with the geographic and real life milestones, there have been some writing and blog-related accomplishments also.  I recently put up my hundredth post.  There are now more than 200 of you following me (I tell you in all honesty that I never expected to have more than 2 followers, let alone 200!).  I have embarked on writing a novel–which is a journey that I hadn’t even considered a year ago.

So it seemed somehow fitting that Summer  recently gifted me with this awesome award:

The award is the Journey Support Award–one I’ve not seen before–and is passed on to folks who are helping along on this writing journey.  If you don’t know Summer, you really should make a trip over to her place and check her out.  Her upbeat and insightful posts have been a constant source of inspiration for me personally, and I am certain that is true for many others too.  Thanks for the award Summer!  I really appreciate it.

As I write this, it strikes me that there seems something strangely serendipitous about all these happenings.  The last half-year or so has been nothing but a blast, primarily because of the generous support and encouragement of so many of you, and I think that can’t be an accident.

Therefore, I want to pass this on to all those great writers and bloggers who have been a part of Where Sky Meets Ground.  I thank you all from the bottom of my heart–truly!–for making this writing trip so fun and for helping me to find the confidence to believe in myself.  Perhaps I don’t need to say it, but in one way or another, all of you have inspired me, and for that I am genuinely grateful.  Here goes (in no particular order)!

Lydia & Joe’s The Sharp Angle
Karen’s Eternal Moonshine of a Daydreaming Mind
Claire’s Points of Claire-ification
Roni’s Fiction Groupie
Tara’s Feel Of Something New
Christi’s A Torch In The Tempest
Postie’s The Sententious Vaunter
SJS’s Writing In The Wilderness
Scott’s A Writer’s Blog
Lola’s Sharp Pen/Dull Sword
Emily’s The Chronicles of Emily Cross
DL’s Cruising Altitude
Portia Sisco
Liza’s Middle Passages
Carol’s Carol’s Prints
Simon’s Constant Revision
Courtney’s Southern Princess
Brian Keaney’s Dreaming In Text
Elana Johnson
Schmidty’s SM Schmidt
Heather’s See Heather Write
Travener’s The Big Litowski
Christine’s The Writer’s Hole

Thank you all so very much, and of course, stay groovy!

P.S.  I’ve absolutely no idea what internet access will be like in Sicily, so I may be off the net for a few days, but rest assured, we’ll talk again soon.

Last night, we watched this really cool film about the advertising industry called Art & Copy.

I love movies like this that make you think about art and the effect ideas have on the different strata of our culture.  The overwhelming need for extremely cohesive ideas in advertising surprised me.  Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a surprise, but it’s funny how effects, phenomena, and concepts that come off so effortlessly in fact require so much durn work.

Art & Copy was extremely entertaining–I recommend it!–but there was one particular ad in it which sorta took my breath away.  It’s a Michael Jordan commercial.  Transposed upon the business of novel writing, from the vantage point of beginning writers like me, I think it inspires in a very unique way–and captures the spirit of what it is to persevere and make good in the end.  What do you think?

It’s always been my opinion, when reading a great book, that there comes a time when the reader stops seeing the words.  He or she stops noting the interesting use of adjectives, or the choice of dialogue tags and starts seeing in their mind’s eye the images the author has painted.  He or she watches the hero climb the stairs into a forbidding darkness, sees the heroine huddle nearby, feels nervousness as the villain watches them both on a fuzzy close circuit TV screen.

This effect is not an easy one to pull off.  It means that the fiction is working on every level–structurally, philosophically, grammatically, narratively–and there are no distractions which draw the reader away from what John Gardner calls the fictional dream.  Any distraction, like a wedding band drummer who thinks he’s playing in a sixty-thousand seat stadium, will draw the reader’s attention, and cause them not to “see” the vision the author is trying to paint.

Almost anything can be a distraction.  For example, a writer I knew liked James Joyce a lot, so all of his dialogue used Joyce’s two-dash convention, instead of quotes, thusly:

–Heavens, no! James spouted.
–You heard what I said.  Renee said.

While stylistically, use of this convention may be avant garde and cool, it still represents one of those bumps which causes the reader to pause and have to think.  Other distractions include over-describing, overuse of adjectives or adverbs or problems with narrative voice.

This is why readers and reviewers are so important, and also I think why putting a piece aside for some period of time can be extremely critical to a writer’s vision of his own work.  Waiting for awhile helps you see the fictional dream in a way you can’t when you’re too close to it, but more importantly, it helps you identify those choices in your writing that distract from the seamlessness of the whole.

In other words, if your fiction is a rock band, make sure you don’t have one of these guys playing drums:

Have a groovy weekend and thanks for stopping by!

This is a just a quick note to update those who are interested in our trip progress.  If you are checking in for my usual brand of writing-related mental meanderings, I apologize.  Things have been busy.  Unfortunately, at this particular juncture, busy equals no time for writing–either the fiction or the blog variety.

But this is not to say that life isn’t going well.  We–Furnacegirl, Muffin, and I, plus pooch extraordinaire Stormy–are safely in Norfolk, awaiting our departure to Sicily by plane on Tuesday.  We are staying with a friend who owns a very nice condo on the beach, so the surroundings are warm and congenial and–except for the stack of stuff we still need to do–we have absolutely no complaints.

However, I do feel obligated to report that our drive up from Lafayette was not completely without incident.  There we were, having just crossed the I-10 bridge into Mississippi, when what should appear from the confines of the engine compartment?  A cheery white cloud of steam and coolant–accompanied by an angry red gauges light and a spike on the temp gauge.

I know what you might be saying to yourself: this guy didn’t properly preflight his vehicle.  Or it’s an old car and the radiator gave up the ghost.  Or he didn’t check his hoses and one blew.  Obviously, it could have been a dozen things.

Nevertheless, if you had been driving down that particular stretch of Interstate 10 on that glorious, semi-sunny Sunday morning, you would have seen a man with eyes bulging, virtually doubled over with dissatisfaction, the only indication that he wasn’t having a conniption being the targeted way he waved his fist at the sky and snarled in some mix of English and Profanity, cursing the Automotive Gods and generally making a fool of himself.

That man, I bet you have now gathered, was me.  :)

You see, all the obvious conclusions above about the poor repair of the vehicle and/or the poor attention paid to it by its owner are false.  In fact, wishing to avoid such roadside strandings in the course of a fifteen-hundred-mile journey, I had done quite a bit of work on the vehicle.  New radiator.  New hoses.  New water pump.  New thermostat.  New tires.  The list goes on.  The phenomenon which I was observing should not, in fact, be happening.  Perhaps it was some strange tear in the fabric of the space-time continuum that was turning the normally reliable laws of physics on their ears.

The obvious cascade of events followed from my little tirade.  Phone calls flew.  The fam huddled in the shade and tried unsuccessfully to hide from the profound Mississippi humidity.  A tow truck arrived.  A tow truck departed.

We rode along to the local Pep Boys–the only shop open on Sunday–where the manager, a woman named Dani to whom we shall always be indebted, took pity on us and had one of her techs look at the jeep immediately.  Nearly two-hundred dollars later, we were back on the road.

The culprit?  The radiator cap.  Yep.  I couldn’t believe it either.  The shop who put in the new radiator decided it would be funny or prudent or downright insidious to replace the ten-year-old radiator cap on our brand new radiator.

We enjoyed a very nice afternoon, reading year-old Sports Illustrateds and Car and Driver magazines in the Pep Boys in Slidell, Louisiana courtesy of a failed five-dollar piece of rubber and metal, and some Corpus Christi mechanic’s lack of judgment.

Back on the road, we sang the hotel song (sung to a melody reminiscent of the guttural stylings of Herman from the Munsters)–

Where’s the hotel?
Where’s the hotel?
(words and music by Muffin copyright 2010)

–and enjoyed the lazy light as it painted the trees and freeway flashing by in phosphorescent oranges and yellows.  The failed radiator cap was a little hiccup, perhaps, but as we are coming to understand, tiny mishaps like this are par for the course when moving halfway round the world, and best handled with a healthy dose of patience and a splash of humor for good measure.

As my dear friend Shakespeare once said:  All’s well that ends well.  Do you have any travel tales to tell, either good or bad?