Friday 5: A Week

I’m reading Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine, winner of the National Book Award for Children’s Literature in 2010. The momentum I had coming out of my Harry Potter re-read carried me through several pretty good books (and one really good one), but this one’s been a speed bump. It’s a short book, too, so that’s kind of a disappointment.

It’s written from the point of view of a ten-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, whose brother is killed in a school shooting. If you’ve worked with Asperger’s students, you know they require a lot of patience, patience I have (almost) always had because they were my students. Reading inside the mind of one of these students who isn’t mine requires a bit of patience I don’t have. It’s been a little frustrating, but I may have turned a corner. Something in the novel I hadn’t thought of, a connection to To Kill a Mockinbird, may have emerged, something I find intriguing.

Still takes a bit of effort to pick that thing up during my usual reading times. I’m finding it easier to stare at my phone.

Friday 5 from here.

  1. If I give you $20 to spend selfishly by tomorrow evening, what do you spend it on?
    Almost surely a meal out. Maybe a bowl of pho and some Vietnamese iced coffee. Heck yeah.
  2. What’s a delivery you recently waited too long for?
    I ordered a book to give a friend for her birthday, even though I don’t know when her birthday is. I just want to have it ready for when it comes up. The book has had a few covers, but I wanted the hardcover edition with the original cover, so I ordered it from an Amazon seller who claimed my order was Prime eligible. They shipped it out the next day, all right, but they sent it USPS media mail! Do you know how long media mail takes to get to Hawaii from the U.S. East Coast? In this case fourteen days. Since I wasn’t exactly in a hurry to get it and since the book is in terrific shape, I’m not going to complain (‘though I mentioned it in my review of the seller), but next-day MEDIA MAIL is not what I’m paying for when I renew my freaking Prime membership every year. Gr!
  3. How annoying have you been lately?
    I’d say pretty annoying. I’ve been having difficulty getting myself locked in at work, which always makes me a little distractible, which makes me a distraction to those around me. Sorry, office-mates.
  4. When did you last give someone a ride in your car for the first time?
    Hey, but I did give a coworker a ride when she had to leave her car in the shop before work one morning. Met her at a nearby Starbucks with a cup of coffee, and drove her in. That was two weeks ago I think.
  5. What was the last piece of candy you ate?
    We have this bucket of candy on the reception desk at the office, and I threw a bag of li hing mui honey drops in there last week. I often throw candy in there and seldom indulge, but I have a weakness for these and had four of them Thursday and another few Friday.

Friday 5: A Garbage Heap of Questions

Gearing up for another NaNoWriMo, I purchased a very short book on writing the cozy mystery.  I used kind of a how-to book for my 15 flash fictions in 31 days project in July and it went really, really well, so I’m looking for similar guidance for NaNoWriMo.

I’m thinking of revisiting a failed concept for a few NaNos ago, a cozy mystery set in an elementary school with a tweener as the sleuth.  It gives me something of a new concept in a new (to me) genre, and it has the bonus of being a good audience for a complete novel at 50,000 words.

I’m wolfing down a quarter-pounder with cheese (deluxe) meal at the McD’s on the corner, coming down off the post-concert high from New Order.  It was a most excellent show, and Kathy and I had a great time from rather good seats.

I just saw a Domino’s delivery car go through the McD’s drive-through.

I’m 59% of the way through The Bookshop, the Penelope Fitzgerald novel from which the film is adapted.  It’s rather good.  Such a completely different voice and style from Kevin Kwan’s in Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, both of which I enjoyed.

I want to be a writer whose fans enjoy his voice.  I enjoy my voice, although I have to admit I’m getting tired of it, and I’ve been playing around with some variations to see if they fit.

In John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, the sequel to Cannery Row, the author refers to himself in the prologue, describing a conversation between him and one of the characters.  I might be remembering some of this incorrectly, but the gist is that the writer agrees to keep his flowery prose limited to a few chapters, and agrees further to title the chapters “Hooptedoodle” so the reader who avoids flowery prose can just skip ahead.

When Steinbeck wants to be showy, he can really be showy.  It’s some lovely writing.  But it’s all Steinbeck’s voice, the regular chapters, the intercalary chapters, and the hooptedoodle chapters.  I want to be this consistent.

No problem, right?  I mean Steinbeck did it.

Sweet Thursday is not one of his stronger novels, but it’s one of my favorite.  I think it’s my third favorite behind The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.  For some reason I like it better than Cannery Row, ‘though it’s not nearly as good.

Friday 5 from here.

  1. What should be the collective name for accountants?
    A reconciliation of accountants.
  2. What should be the collective name for cafe baristas?
    How about a misspelling of baristas?
  3. What should be the collective name for tattoo artists?
    Two other respondents suggested a sleeve of tattoo artists, which I totally love, but since I refuse to copy, how about a permanence of tattoo artists?
  4. What should be the collective name for people who vape?
    A cumulonimbus of vapers.
  5. What should be the collective name for people in your profession or hobby?
    A futility of writers.  A paragraph of writers.  An epitaph of writers.  Ooh yeah, let’s go with that one.

Stephen King on Reading

As part of Camp NaNoWriMo I’m finally reading Stephen King’s On Writing.  I don’t read many books about writing because I don’t want to be one of those people who reads about writing and talks about writing more than he actually writes.  But I do need a spark lately, and this has been good for it.

More notes and a complete review next month, when I’ve finished it.  This past week, though, a few things King writes have reminded me of something I’ve been keenly aware of for at least a year: I’m not reading enough, and reading is a huge part of the job of writing. My writing partner reminds me of this all the time, but for some reason we don’t talk about it much and it hasn’t been sticking.

My problem is (as it always is) time. I try to read the news (I subscribe to the Washington Post and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser) every day, at least some of it. And I do a lot of reading for my jobs. But none of that is really the reading I’m supposed to be doing in service to my writing, so I’ve made some adjustments.

Now, if I’m on the bus or waiting for a bus, that’s time for pleasure reading. It means less podcast-listening, probably, and less music-listening, because for some reason I can’t read if music is coming through the earbuds. I mean I can’t read for pleasure. I work-read with music in the earbuds all the time.

Also because of Stephen King, I was reminded of how much I enjoy Sixties-era science fiction, so with refreshed resolve (and not a small amount of liberation, permitted — nay, directed — by Stephen King himself to indulge my escapism because it’s part of the craft, I remembered an anthology of Harry Harrison stories I purchased a couple of years ago but never read. Perfect for bus stops.

The anthology is published by Wildside Press, a legit publishing company that makes an effort to keep older material in print. It has a “Megapacks” series, a series of anthologies (like the one I’m reading) that it sells for very cheap, giving a lot of the content away free on its website. This collection of Harry Harrison stories and novels appeared in the SF periodicals of the day, such as Analog. Wildside either purchased the entire back-catalogue of these magazines or worked out an agreement with the publishers, and it’s a really nice thing, because the stories can be difficult for the enthusiast to track down if they only exist in pulp magazines from 60 years ago, you know?

I paid $.99 for this Harry Harrison Megapack (I hate that name, but whatever; the price is right). So far I’ve read a short story called “Arm of the Law,” which could have been an early inspiration for Robocop, and am halfway through a novel called Deathworld, about a planet so hostile to its own inhabitants that every form of plant and animal life seems to have evolved with the sole purpose of killing its humans. Like many classic SF novels of the time, it was first serialized in these magazines before being published in novel form, so what I’m reading is different from the novel Harrison fans know as Deathworld; I’m reading the earliest version before it was ever a book.

I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed Harrison’s prose. His action narrative is just right, and I think I may subconsciously have learned a lot of my own action narrative (such as it exists) from his Stainless Steel Rat novels. The Stainless Steel Rat stories aren’t included in this collection, but I’m okay with that since I’m enjoying what’s here. Also, $.99.

I just looked it up on Amazon and the Kindle edition is now priced at $.55.  Recommended if you want some good escapism with a bit of pacifist worldview thrown in.