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Posts from the ‘reading’ Category

The secret mind

I think of myself as a squeamish person. I don’t read horror novels or thrillers that delve lovingly into deranged minds. Heck, I can’t even read the icky bits in Diana Gabaldon’s books.

So I was rather disturbed, the other day, to discover that some part of my mind has been lovingly detailing scenarios that I don’t ever want to read, much less write.  I’m not going to write the details, because I found them really upsetting and I want to bleach my brain now, but here’s what happened: We were watching a cop show and came to the obligatory scene where somebody is tied to a chair and somebody else is trying to get information out of him by hitting him in the face, and I turned to the First Reader and said, “You know, I can think of a lot more effective ways to torture somebody for information. Why don’t they…. Or they could try…. Or they wouldn’t even need a blowtorch, a little butane torch would….

At this point the First Reader, he who can read accounts of historical atrocities with no trouble, began turning green, and I shut up.

And spent the rest of the evening wondering just what part of my mind had been collecting ideas for truly stomach-turning tortures, and how I could divert it to another track.  Because I don’t like torture. I don’t like to read about it, I don’t write it, and I really, really hate that a part of the fiction writer’s mind inside me has been collecting this stuff.

But… it’s there. Even if I’m not going to inflict it on you, I know now that it’s there.

What surprising pathways does your writer’s mind wander down without conscious direction?

Thinking Like a Stranger

A schematic of a patrician’s home/ware-house in the Hansa Museum in Lübeck, Germany. Author photo.

Well, that’s what all writers do, isn’t it? We get inside the heads of fictional people and other critters, find out their motivations (or give them some) and then see what happens. Right?

But what if you need a character with a mind that works in a very different way from yours? Read more

“…Little Is That I’ve Not Been.”

Fredrick Barbarossa awakens! Photo by author, mural in the Kaisarpfalz in Goslar, Germany.

 

I was listening to a very modern setting of part of the “Battle of the Trees,” the Cad Goddeu. The poem, or at least the parts we have of it, is long and strange, and includes a declaration by Taliesin of all the various shapes he has worn over the aeons.  The list includes:

I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
I will believe when it is apparent.
I have been a tear in the air,
I have been the dullest of stars.
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book in the origin.
I have been the light of lanterns,
A year and a half.
I have been a continuing bridge,
Over three score Abers.2
I have been a course, I have been an eagle.
I have been a coracle in the seas:
I have been compliant in the banquet.

From: Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collection “The Battle of the Trees.

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Comfort books

There are times when I don’t really want something new to read, times when I feel so beaten down that all I really want is to pass my eyes over a book I love so much I’ve all but memorized it already. The last couple of weeks have been like that, as what I thought was just a summer cold got nastier and lasted longer and left me too wiped out to write.

Most of the time I’ve even been too tired and shaky to make my way from the bedroom to the “library” at the other end of the house, where fiction and non-reference memoirs and humor live. In between actually reading, I’ve been visualizing those shelves and thinking about what I want to grab next time I venture all that distance. And thinking about what constitutes a “comfort book” for me.   Read more

Foundations

If ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy?

One of the things I’ve learned in the process of building our own farm from nothing more than a patch of bush with a fantastic sea view, is that starting from absolutely nothing is one hell of a lot harder than starting from something.  Literally, anything, but ideally something that requires little more than a redecorate and moving your furniture in is definitely this game on ‘lowest difficulty’ setting. From the regulatory/bureaucratic quagmire point of view, any sort of existing house, especially if it has electrical and sewage systems in place is going to save you a mint of money and may substantially reduce your chances of informing the FBI that your local council has a video of President Trump kissing Vladimir hidden somewhere on their premises.

Starting from nothing… well, you MAY get what you want, to your own desires and design. On the other hand, speaking from personal experience here, you may well end up building, taking down and rebuilding… at least three times to achieve something sort of Okay, in a good light, or at least when viewed through ‘I do not want to do it a fourth time, and it isn’t falling down immediately. Besides, it has character!’ Read more

Great American Literature, or Great American Stories

The third world-building post will be in two weeks. It’s coming, never fear. But apropos of the piece at The Passive Voice/Wall Street Journal, and the never-ending debate about “what is real literature” and why should everyone read it, I started wondering…

Rather than “the Great American Novel” with all the literary weight that seems to freight the idea, what if we talked about “the Great American Stories?” Read more

Compensatory Mechanisms

There are times I hate being a writer.  One of the things it does is set me at odds with normal (or really, abnormal but not writers)  human beings, and prevents the enjoyment of simple pleasures that involve story telling.

I used to think I was alone in this, but the last few Liberty cons have quite put paid to that idea, as I hear colleague after colleague say things like “I used to enjoy reading, but now I find myself analyzing it”  or “I loved movies but now I can see the mechanics and the effects.

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