Tag Archives: Books

Sock It to ME?!

There’s no good way to schedule time for writing when you work two jobs and can’t anticipate when you’ll be calm enough to compose. However, I was able to make a transition chapter work yesterday without knowing what to do beforehand. It’s easy to get anxious about not knowing where to take the story from a specific point. That’s what happened with My City By the Bay. That book should have been published in 2013. It was not and that’s the way it is, Cronkite. I still have it on my hard drive somewhere, but I’d like to at least finish this current piece before I die.

I could find myself blaming my two jobs for my inability to sit down and write, or the fact I could go from functioning one day to exhausted the next, or that my equipment is severely second-hand (i.e. keys are starting to break, AC adapter and battery failure, etc.), or my house is ill-suited for writing. While problematic, no one could argue otherwise, I have been dealt the cards of this situation and really have no other option but to play them. Every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser. Right, Rogers?

Being the glutton for punishment that I am, I plan on typing the pages I’ve written tonight and it’s probably a decent idea to revise the previous chapters to include things I’ve left out, such as the name for the currency and the like. With that indifference, I say “sock it to me.”

More from my book:

Pooling rain makes small rivers down the path on the way back, sometimes large enough to slow down the wagon with the slurping and sucking of mud. Boards ramp up the wheels in the more difficult areas for us to move forward. At times, Molvin provides counterweight around the trees as a last ditch effort to save the load. Our relief finds its way through a round grate off the path, set in the webbing of a massive root system. Pounding three times, a voice shrieks from behind the iron.

“What is low, strong and moves all night long?” the banshee demanded.

“Your mother, Analeese, now let us in!” I stop mid-belch to clear the sour mash from my throat while wincing. The cowl of my cloak caves in and pours water all over my face. I grimace.

Analeese comes sliding outside like her ass is on fire. “Damn the gods, Jeshkin, quit being an asshole!” She rolls the lids right. Passing her, I wink with my right eye and show fillings in a wide smile. She hisses. There are times she claims her mother was raped by an anaconda and embodies the strength of the constrictor. I think she does it to intimidate people. She places the circle into its original position and pulls the arm back down onto the brackets.

Copyright © 2016 Corvidae in the Fields

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Does This Depression Make Me Look Fat?

I think it has been a bittersweet couple of weeks. There needs to be more activity here, and so I should provide it. The bitter part is staring down the barrel of Winter. However, the sweet part was seeing my high school friend and his wife in Madison, WI a weekend ago. Grass always seems greener when you walk off your property, which is usually used (I’ve noticed) to discourage you from doing something new. I think it’s better used as fair warning, to really make sure you’re making a calculated risk. Anyone travel anywhere recently?

The other sweet part is I have written some more. The sentences aren’t strung as cleverly as I enjoy, but I’m trying to keep Kurt Vonnegut’s advice in my head:

Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

And a chunk of what I’ve been writing:

We stop near a large portcullis and even larger pegged wheel, and I stare at Molvin until he wiggles out of his nest in the back. Grabbing the moist boards of the wheel, he cranks and grunts for the better part of a minute. The barely-lit sewer painted a lively picture which entertained me as I listened to his incessant bitching. Water reflected movement all around me, and slid across the walls of the sewer from the manmade river underground. The long pools wave in strange formations.

Inside and out, the moving wall mosaic had a pleasant rhythm, exciting and returning for encore. The grunting mule behind me was too busy to observe anything. Balancing himself horizontal to the ground by his stomach, he crunches his stomach a few times in a fruitless wiggle. The best that comes of it is a clinks of the chains wrapped around the wheel.

Two tunnels down, the lights stop. It shimmers momentarily and stops again. Staring made the made the light return. Returning my attention to Molvin, I whip my head back to the same spot. Black. “Move,” I mutter, “move, move, move, please move.”

“Ye git dan h’re an’ help den, Jesh!” Molvin’s ruddy face cranes from its parallel position to shout profanity at me and I jump out of the driver seat.

“Damn the gods, Molvin, do I have to do everything myself?” Maybe that was my anxiety getting the better of me but there’s no retraction after that.

“I s’pose ye do, now help!” Quitting the acrobat routine Molvin crouches at the rotten straw near the mechanism.

“Fine, if it gets us closer to the bath house.” Sliding down the seat my approach to the wheel is quicker than I would normally perform. Waiting for Molvin to stop his intermittent bitching, I dig my feet hard into the rocks. The portcullis moves in screams as we strain to roll the wheel in motion. A feeling of nausea tingles in my nose as I close my eyes softly and whimper but we continue until a pawl prevents it from falling at the top. The halls return to the quiet display it once was. Swallowing hard, little prompts me to press on through the gate.

Copyright © 2016 Corvidae in the Fields

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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

thought I was in the clear when Sunday turned out to be 26° C (80° F). Alas, this morning I woke up to a pronounced layer of snow all over everything. This has been, by far, the worst winter in years. I need to move somewhere warmer.

Not much has been brewing since I published “Dusk,” which I found to be entertaining. I’ve been reading Ezra Pound’s “Homage to Sextus Propertius” and “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly.” Apparently, the two are meant to be fitted side-by-side and is done so in Diptych Rome-London. These poems are a bit much for the casual reader, as “Homage” includes a lot of lesser known historical figures such as Sextus Propertius and “Mauberly” uses a ton of imagery. That’s not surprising, as Pound was the developer of Imagism.

There is a very moving section, as noted in the introduction of the book, where Pound strikes hard at the cost of world war.

There died a myriad,

And of the best, among them,

For an old bitch gone in the teeth,

For a botched civilization…

– (“E. P. Ode Pour L’Election de Son Sepulchre, V”, 1-4)

This really puzzles me, as he aided and abetted the Axis powers in the Second World War. One would think he’d remember what it felt like to go through it the first time. Even though I’ve gone through the poems once, I’ll have to read them a few more times to really “get it.” As of right now, I only consider this an “experience” of Pound.

 

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Thursday, April 10th, 2014

I finished reading A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut a couple of days ago and found it a little disappointing. The book felt like Kurt dropped a box of post-it notes at my feet and said “well, I’m out to lunch.” Being the observant reader, I was able to take home a few nuggets of value away from the text though. First and foremost is his quote about the arts. This has been circling social media outlets for some time but I enjoy repeating it.

If you really want to hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding [his way of making sure the reader knows he’s not being sarcastic from earlier in the book]. The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.  (p. 24, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York)

How can I argue with that? It dovetails into my quote from watching Press.Pause.Play. The arts aren’t about money, anyway. Really. Sure, we’d all like to roll around on a bed full of money a la Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal, but how many of us will really cash in on that? How many of us have the real support of the people around us and others who know how to make stuff happen for writers, actors, comedians, etc.? We can’t all be professional writers. We all can’t be baseball players. We all can’t be Hollywood-types.

There’s just too many of us, and some of us have friends in very high places. It’s a game to some, but not me. It’s only a game when you make it about money. At this point in my minute existence, all I want is to leave something behind much like a slug that leaves a trail over a sidewalk. You may get the same sense of discomfort or disgust while reading my work, too. Good on you.

The current book I’m reading is Unleashing the Ideavirus by Seth Godin, and he would say it’s not a matter of technical ability or money. To him, it’s a matter of creating an idea to circulate material to as many people as possible. This kinetic, wide-eyed thinking is the amusement I miss in my economics classes back in the day. It totally misses the point, the one I just told you in the last paragraph. This is not to be confused with an “it’ll sell itself” attitude, because that’s not what’s being discussed.

Vonnegut also spoke of how he was regarded at English departments. “Critics feel,” he writes, “that a person cannot be a serious artist and also have a technical education, which I had.” (p.15) This is very meaningful to me, as I’ve found myself in the same boat. What I have to ask myself is “do I want to be recognized as a ‘serious artist’?” It’s a legit question, and I suppose I couldn’t say at this point. Maybe if I were younger I’d be gung-ho about the idea. Now, I’m not so sure.

At any rate, I’m still here. I’m still breathing, writing, and working. Maybe someday I can look back and laugh at this? I certainly hope so, because it’s pretty damned depressing.

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Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Hoo, boy! My head’s spinning. I’ve spent the morning finishing Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut and it is easily my favorite work of his. Simply tragic and beautiful and gave me the rare occasion to laugh in public while reading. I’ve resolved to read A Man Without a Country as soon as I possibly can, but there’s work to be done.

It’s 10° C (50° F) here in the Fields today, and the sun is shining! It feels like a heatwave. This is also an opportunity I shouldn’t squander. There’s yard work for a lawn waking from its slumber. There are a few items for the business to wrap up before tomorrow, and a flash fiction piece I’m worrying to death because it’s so unlike what I normally write but I want to finish it anyway.

Yes, that’s why I haven’t posted in a few days. I’m fussing over a piece of writing that isn’t what I’m known for. The whole piece started out benignly enough, but took a wrong turn and ended up in the bad part of town. The NSFW district. Part of me appreciates the break away from my traditional guidelines, while the other berates me for penning two-bit erotica fit only for a smutty romance novel. I need to revise. I need to reshape it to my original focus, but I desperately want to broach the field and still have some form of artistic value.

Aside from this, my weekend has been exceptionally noteworthy. There was an international night at the local university, and I was pleasantly surprised by friends during my weekend pilgrimage to a college town north of here. I made the acquaintance of an acquaintance last night who is starting to date said acquaintance. Poor girl. I felt sorry for her, as her new beau really (and I mean REALLY) needs to step up his game with her. As little as I know on how to court women, he’s even further behind. I wanted to shake him a couple of times and say, “pay attention to your lady! Make her feel like the VIP of the bar!” He didn’t ignore her on purpose. He’s simply ignorant of the dos and don’ts of dating. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Unfortunately, that’s all the time I have to journal right now. I’ve got a lawn to clean up. Happy Sunday to you all!

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Sunday, March 30th, 2014

I’ve recently returned from a bar having finished H.G. Wells’s science fiction classic The War of the Worlds. This did not disappoint! What it possessed in outdated technology, it captured in basic human nature. Even more appreciative was I at the fact it didn’t have Tom Cruise as the main protagonist. Gone are the days of the plucky naval pilot. They will be missed.

There have been prior attempts to bring the story into then modern forms of media, such as Orson Welles’s 1938 radio broadcast and the 1953 film directed by Byron Haskin. I’ve only watched pieces of the Haskin film. So, I don’t feel fit to provide a worthwhile evaluation of it. Orson is rather maniacal in his work, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt and suggest his enthusiasm here is due to fandom, not his sizable ego.

For all serendipity’s worth, it also fit neatly into a little dilemma I had over the weekend. Apparently there has been a demand for writers to minimize the use of adverbs in their writing. The premise is to “show” the reader the story rather than “telling” them outright.  This is all presented as if it were a piece of toilet paper stuck to the heel of my boot. Being a novice writer I will readily admit I’ve used such devices in my work.

At first, I felt incredulous over the idea critics would pan material simply for the use of some innocent part of speech. It seemed quite petty, and the rule-makers of language are often trying to find ways to look down upon the common users. They are the hipsters of the literary world. I’d like to corral them with the same people who get bent out of shape over Comic Sans.

After I calmed down, I tried the old “constructive criticism” approach and took everything in with an open mind. “Sure,” I thought, “if people feel they see a more vivid picture without them, I suppose it’s worth the energy.” I carried this thought on through most of the past two days. As a writer, you are trying to communicate to an audience. The better the communicative techniques, the more well-received it will be.

This leads me to Wells. As I have discovered, The War of the Worlds has plenty of adverbs. I’m almost certain he could have re-written a “better” sentence several times. If this book was so besotted with criminal text, how could it have lasted this long? Could it be that if a story is compelling enough, the number of times a writer adds an “-ly” word to modify a verb or adjective doesn’t matter? Oh yeah.

My current position is this: don’t sacrifice your work for the sake of style issues. If you can make a better sentence, then by all means do but don’t get hung up over it. Are we to tell the H.G. Wells of the world their story isn’t good enough because there are too many adverbs? I don’t think so.

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Saturday March 8th, 2014

Today I have a couple of things to say for a change! There is reason enough to believe I should break them out into separate posts, as they’re different topics. What fortune! I think I’m more excited about that fact than I am the actual material but what happens next is still a bright spot on the grey-matter-gone-black that is my mental faculties. There may have been a spider or two that scurried away as I cracked open that cellar door.

Last night was shaping up to be a real Emo-city, cut-and-not-so-dry, window-gazer of an evening. All dressed up in suit and tie from a seminar I attended that day, I went to eat dinner out. The hurried, mechanical pace of American restaurants and a waitress too young to flirt with didn’t satisfy what I craved. Fortunately I keep a book at my side, being that dining alone is a way of life here. I thumbed the pages of The Jungle before setting out for a different venue. Ho-hum. That’s not in reference to the book, just the atmosphere.

Next stop was a swankier bar downtown. I’m not entirely sure why I went there. Maybe it’s because the women dress better? With better dress though can come attitudes, especially with the clientele being employees of a large corporate headquarters a few blocks away. Just as a side note, it doesn’t take much money to gain a sense of superiority in the Fields. A yearly salary of $70,000 could cultivate a behavior similar to that seen on “The Real Housewives of…” It’s slightly amusing, as I have been to much more wealthy locations in this country, but mostly tragic… and annoying. Most annoying was the woman so drunk she was laughing like Salacious B. Crumb and loudly.

Scratching cold starts in my journal, I could only stare out the window in efforts to find some sort of inspiration. A video comment by Ira Glass found on Jodie Llewellyn’s blog was running through my mind at the time, and I felt I needed a running start to have the spirit move me. I ended up walking out with little to show for it. The gloom of a failed evening was starting to follow me. So, I did the best I could: change cities.

Driving about 20 minutes north reveals a small college town with a better tone throughout, in my opinion. I set up camp at a sports bar near the highway just to sit and read. Those are what I’ve decided to be the staples in my life right now: reading and writing. Most of the time there was being conscious of a presence sitting next to me. Cocksure and country alpha, I could feel a pissy nature emit from the turned back of a patron. Was he jealous that I was reading, or just a jerk? Later in the evening he was joined by another and his dialog only assured me of the latter. Foul with crass etiquette (i.e. spitting), his  conversation covered a gamut of gems ranging from aggression to sour grapes.

Not quite ready to give up the ship, I stopped by a bar I usually visit for some tonic and whatever else I could squeeze out of Upton Sinclair. I don’t like the idea of being so frequent to an establishment that I either lose interest or wear out my welcome. Last night was not one to mull over that fine point. It turned out to be a great decision, as a girl broke my concentration with an inquiry of the reading material. After a well-received joke, I went back to reading as her significant other body-blocked our field of view. He was definitely jealous of our rapport, and I relished it like a villain.

Stepping outside for another broken promise, I had the pleasure of meeting two gentlemen from the local university. Both were philosophy majors with a interest in books. Naturally they opened up with my selection for the evening and we had a delightful conversation that ran almost an hour in the freezing cold. Steinbeck, Hemingway, Sinclair, Dick, Asimov, Kerouac, Bradbury, Heinlein, Faulkner, and Fitzgerald were all under the same roof. I could not have been happier even if I wasn’t a fan of some of the authors. The spectre of depression had been banished to the void for at least a night. Happily, I drove home content for a change.

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Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Today will not be about me, as much as WordPress is my way of quickly, comfortably, and freely documenting my life. No, today will be about someone else. This post goes out to a writer trying to find herself in her craft from what I sense. There is a book on my freecycled desk of which I’m currently reading:

front-cover-for-blog

Copyright 2010 – 2014 Andra L Watkins

To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis

She also has her work published in Echoes in DarknessAs of right now, Andra is taking a 444-mile walk on walking the Natchez Trace and discussing her journey on her own blog. I invite those who are unfamiliar with her to visit her page here.  It includes a daily question and answer section along with photos from her trip. She is a fantastic person, and I wish her the best in her career.

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What to read? What to read?

I’d like to grapple with the idea of being “well read” in a typical sense. When we discuss being well read, the assumption is being knowledgeable about books. There is no definitive set of books, as being well read is based on personal judgment. Be warned, there will be plenty of other people who’d love to tell you differently. They misunderstand the rules of conduct, which is similar to a doctor’s visit: you know yourself better than anyone.

While the staff at NPR would like to defecate their britches over the statistical impossibility of being well read, I find persistence a little more useful. Are we to cry into our thimble full of knowledge because the ocean is vast? No, we should take pride in the fact we picked up a thimble and drank from that water. That means we wanted fulfillment beyond basic human sustenance.

As NPR is wont to do, it assumes people naturally want continuous scholastic achievement. This is how out of touch with the ordinary person they are. The typical American doesn’t give a flying fig about reading, and to a lesser extent being well-versed in any genre of music. That concept of erudition is limited to a lesser number of people.

The good folks at NPR reek of guilt, which always gets my dander up. Why? Because it’s often based on the notion you should feel guilty, too.  For example, the author of the NPR piece is lamenting through the whole story statistics will surely make us all feel sad we can’t “see it all.”  I’ve got news for you. The people who punch the cookie on the east side of Hooterville are only interested in Here Comes Honey Boo BooPawn Star, and/or Real Housewives of [insert location]. They’re not going to shed one tear that they didn’t see Pagliacci or read Infinite Jest. They are comfortable in being simple, and find their minds more preoccupied with monetary matters than scholastic.

How could anyone, then, gain a feeling of being well-read or otherwise accomplished? Know thyself. With the proliferation of books and other media, all of us can customize a more meaningful list of reading material. I’m fairly certain my material is in classical literature. Ergo, that’s my emphasis. This will not be the same set of books for anyone else.

Well… well… well… how can we tell if someone is well-read when we have no standards to compare them with, Nate? I mean come on! We all need standards, right? To that point of view, I say I think we’re beyond harnessing any sort of discernible standard. Funny how humans think they can control everything. The upshot of this is people have less of a reason to be judgmental. Great googly-moogly, Nate! How will the literary elite survive without their ability to look down their nose at the Twilight readers?! The short answer is they still will, but for more subjective reasons. I think that more honest than hiding behind the veil of academics.

This idea could be very beneficial to the American educational system. The concept of identifying meaningful literature should be the goal, not telling you what literature is meaningful. It would move them away from their manufacturing mentality, and embrace something a little more elastic. I come from the position it’s more important to exercise discretion than regurgitation.

But… but… but… OMG STANDARDS, NATE! STANDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRDS! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH… what a world… what a world… what a world…

(If you couldn’t tell, they just melted into a controlled puddle of goo. )

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The Read Good Hits of the Summer

As I was tooling around WordPress today, I caught BookPeople and Book of Words posting their list of Summer reading. Since I’m no longer in school, and haven’t been for some time now, below is my current reading list. It just so happens to be Summertime. There is a very high possibility that some of these titles will end up on my Fall and Winter reading lists. The chances very greatly on what home repairs I decide to do, changes in workload, and other adulthood matters that get in the way of everything.

I’ve just finished Black Water Transit by Carsten Stroud per the request of a good friend of mine, and now have the decision of choosing my next read. There are priorities not mentioned on this list, such as finishing Don Quixote by Cervantes AND Ulysses by James Joyce. I can’t leave an incomplete book lying around forever. It drives me nuts. How people can drop a novel indefinitely is beyond me.

These titles are in no particular order, as I usually make up my mind on the spot:

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
  3. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
  4. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
  5. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  6. Diptych Rome-London by Ezra Pound
  7. Steinbeck: A Life in Letters edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten
  8. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  10. The Federalist by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
  11. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  12. Aesop’s Fables
  13. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

I noticed more unread books in my bookcase tonight, which are from shopping sprees long ago. It would be to my amazement, if I could plow through half of the above mentioned during the season. In light of that, I left the rest off the list. They’ll have to wait. For outside observers, I’d imagine the Twain would come as a surprise. Wouldn’t have I already read that by now?

There’s a simple explanation for it, really. In American compulsory education, there’s a limited amount of time dedicated to reading books. Since my earliest recollections in the early 80s, that curriculum has changed to compete with not only a multitude of authors but digital fluff. Iconic works get cut from the courses just as easily as anything else, and who wants to read books anyway? That’s for, like, old people or something.

Anyone else care to share the Summer list?

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