Art of Letters

January 1, 2014

I do editorial assistant work for a friend’s small printing press. Well, she’s decided to go ahead and launch the press this year, anyway. And I am super excited to be able to help support her endeavors. Last year, she got things started off with a literary magazine, and I have really loved reading submissions and such, even when the slush pile is piled high with unpleasant writing.

We got a very lovely piece from someone and I said that I loved it because it captured the beauty of the lost art of letter writing. Another editor agreed with me, and my friend decided to run with it and do a call for a special edition, specifically requesting pieces about letter writing. So I decided to write a little something, because fake letters are one of my favorite writing exercises.

Dear Toothache,

I thought I lost you when you were just a thing that bothered me when I bit down on the right side. I thought you had me with each pulse, each beat of a drum, for awhile. I thought I was going to have to go back to the dentist and get that cavity refilled. And then you were gone, and I was empty again, alone with no pain, with nothing to numb. I thought I missed you. And now I think you never were. I think I invented you to push back against boredom, to give me something to complain about, when nothing’s wrong, nothing’s missing, nothing’s lost. I think I will start to bite down again, on the right side.

All the best,
This Mouth

Today I learned: the word “epistolary,” which I feel I should have known before now, and might have simply forgotten. (definition: “adjective, relating to or denoting the writing of letters or literary works in the form of letters”)

Obligatory Catch Up

December 31, 2013

I have one last post to make for December, if I’ve counted right, which I honestly haven’t bothered to do at all, nor am I going to. To me, there has always been something a little off about December. The best part, and I might as well start with the good, is of course getting to see family. Even if I don’t hold much to the reasons for getting together, fuck it, they are far better excuses than, say, a funeral.

I think there is always a bit of a letdown to a buildup. Even lessening any kind of expectations doesn’t really seem to soften it, too much. But I am not sure I want to continue that line of thinking, not at this moment. I’d rather just move on, which brings me to my next thought, which was really my first thought. Really.

Why not look back and count up December, make sure I’ve hit this self-prescribed number of posts for the month? Because I am never really about looking back. I always want to move forward, learn more, become more, be better, do more, and do better. Because there is a distinction between “to do” and “to be.” Really. Again, with the really.

I had fun, and I want to have more of that. I got hurt by at least one person I considered a close friend, and I want less of that. Only way I know to limit and push past that hurt is to say goodbye to that friend, or even more simply, just let the friendship become dormant. It happens. It’s not awesome, but if everything was awesome, then awesome wouldn’t be so fucking special. And me? I am pretty fucking special. Like special awesome with cherries, not on top, but underneath, a happy surprise.

Sometimes I speak in riddles, sometimes I doublespeak and twist words about so, so it eases me into any emotional ties, and then back out. I think. At least I think so?

Lucky me, I am about to go to a very small gathering at a friend’s house, a friend whose trust I absolutely earned this year, simply by being there when she needed someone to listen. She knew I wouldn’t say a word about any of the specifics to anyone, and I haven’t. And I’ve told her some things as well. In a way, you could say we have a sort of stalemate or cold war, even, of secrets we’ve shared with each other. But that’s a silly way to think of it, because I don’t think that’s a fair way to look at trust. Rather, I learned that once someone realizes they can trust you, it feels like power, and you know you can trust them back. I am glad to know I have friends like that in my support system, and that really, we help to support each other.

So moving on from that, I go back to work on Thursday. It’ll probably be a whirlwind of craziness since the students return on Monday, which means I teach on Monday. I think I am ready for it. I definitely learned a lot this last semester, and will be tweaking my lessons accordingly, and learning from those re-calibrations for subsequent semesters, should I actually decide to continue teaching. On one hand, it is a lot of hassle, but on the other, it pays for convention trips, and that and the experience gained feel worth the trouble.

I think I am going to try to focus on writing one project at a time for a bit and see how much progress I can make on one of the ideas that has been spinning in my head for awhile. Other than that, if I were to make any kind of goals moving forward, they would just be about kindness, I think, along with learning new things and expanding my network/ support system. I think I just need simple things for awhile, to help me heal any wounds I incurred in the past, while I try not to dwell on how they got there.

Out in the wild

December 31, 2013

Out in the wilds of Kentucky, there were monsters that roared with the turn of a wrist. Sputtering to life, they tore down concrete, guzzled up gallons of natural resources, and thirsted harder. They were calculated in their costs, and not worth it to most, but still people fed them.

Out in the sharps of Kentucky, no one knew my name. I walked amongst many, one arm spring-loaded with a case of self-defense, the other arm carrying heavy things I don’t need. I put both arms to rest, lay flat on my back until it was dark enough to count the stars. It didn’t get dark enough, or I never had sight enough, to lose count.

Back to the flats of Ohio, the bridge was shut down going south over the river. Bits of monsters were shattered, with their lifelines still trapped inside. There were so many lights flashing, I lost count. I slow-gamed it home, infuriating and frustrating the hurriers, who didn’t seem to care about anything but getting somewhere. Nevermind the thrill of just being there.

Safe in the flats of Ohio, monsters were parked badly, taking up more space than they needed. I settled mine to rest and stepped out into the cold. It met me thinking, met me interspersed between some hard place and a softer one than I’ve known. Safe in the flats of Ohio, I unlocked a door, unlocked another one, and wondered about the next place I might call home.

Pacific Rim

December 30, 2013

I am doubling up on posts tonight because that way I won’t have to write three tomorrow to play my self-imposed game of catch up.

Today I decided to watch Pacific Rim since I hadn’t yet seen it and because some folks were talking about it at the party I attended on Saturday. I figured I would finally see what the hype was about. Immediately, I could tell it was going to be a visually stunning movie. Twenty minutes later, I was annoyed because there was not even one woman with any significant role in the film. Once that woman showed up, her actions were limited by men. Often, she was talked down to, and not permitted into certain roles just to protect her. Even when she proved she was able to protect herself, she was not to be trusted, because she might cave into her emotional side.

There was at least one other woman with a significant role in the movie, if you don’t count the voice of the giant robot thingy, which I do not. That woman was seen very briefly, looked remarkably like her male counterpart, and both she and her co-drifter were killed and essentially forgotten about. So that really leaves ONE woman in the entire film filled with men running around trying to save the world.

You could say, hey, at least the woman wasn’t just a sex object. At least that, right? I fucking guess. But she still needed saving, and a man risked his life for hers.

With any kind of gender balance in the movie at all, it could have been a much more awesome movie. I felt torn between wanting to enjoy the story and being grumpy at the inequality. I mean, at least they had people of color in extremely prominent roles, right? Except that in a few scenes, the main guy talks down to Idris Elba’s character, telling him things he should actually know, because he is the one who engineered the entire fucking plan in the first place. A simple shift in which character was speaking could have fixed that.

This sort of thing annoys the shit out of me with major motion pictures and television shows, especially when it’s sci-fi and it’s something I really want to enjoy. It made me glad I always look for things like this in films anymore. Oh, things like this… sexism, inequality, etc. Such blatant slaps in the face are good for writers like me. It reminds me to write better, be more mindful, and always do a revision on this level. Sweep for stereotypes. Think about what they mean, if they cause harm, or if they’re a commentary on it.

…And I think I am all diatribed out for now.

Box of doom

December 30, 2013

In my local writing group, a couple of people have made boxes of doom. I decided to make one of my own, both for fun and because the point of the box of doom is that it’s filled with writing prompts.

I got the box decorated and made up some cards with word count minimums on them. The next step is to write out some prompts. I was going to do that today, but I am having migraine issues that Excedrin isn’t even touching, so I am going to save that task til morning.

I think I would have been okay if I had taken a nap earlier, but I didn’t feel like I needed one. And now I wish I had.

I am not sure what I am going to put on the prompts. I have a few ideas, of course, but I figure this is probably a several brainstorming sessions type of project rather than just a one-day thing. So I’ll have a bunch of blank cards until I don’t. And then probably here and there I will have prompts that need to die, and new ones that need to be written.

I want to make a variety of prompts. Some plot twists, some specific to different stories I have been working on, some revision related, some poetry, and some about getting out and experiencing some real world things. In a way, it’ll be more about a challenge than a prompt, more about being active in the writing process, much more about achieving goals than just getting words down. That is the plan anyway.

I have felt for awhile like life is a series of coping mechanisms. Of course it is not just that one thing. It is complex, and filled with twists and turns. And I want to make plans, and see how they contradict reality, and how I can best roll with that. And I am starting with this box.


December 29, 2013

I think I mentioned something before about taking stock of things and all that end-of-year bullcrapple and how I don’t really enjoy doing that. I am definitely not going to back-pedal on that now, like the subject of this post might suggest. I was actually thinking about minimal to-do lists. Today, my great achievement was pretty much not vomiting. I have felt like sheer crap for about 24 hours now. Barely managed to get myself to eat anything, and what I did, barely managed to stay down. It was a super un-fun kind of day.

Or maybe my great achievement for the day was remembering to return the library book I finished reading yesterday. I wrote briefly about the book yesterday, and it sadly never really did get awesome. After I finished it, I went to a party to see some friends, and was particularly excited to see some out-of-towners. This was the party where I was supposed to introduce two of my BFFs, except one of them was ill and couldn’t make it to Ohio after all. Then while I was at the party, the migraine I’d been fighting for days decided to spike (though I think the volume of folks chatting didn’t help matters any). It sounded like no matter where I went, everyone was yelling, even if they were quietly talking. Hell, even if no one was really saying anything at all. I tried to go outside and get some fresh air, but that only increased the nausea. So I had to cave in and go home before I started feeling worse, like too sick to drive home.

I very tearfully said goodbye to the friends I had barely gotten to chat with. They are so awesome, they hugged me until I wasn’t so upset anymore, and told me they love me. I probably cried a little bit more with how much I needed to hear that. Then I possibly got a low-key NYE invite from another friend, where I’ll undoubtedly be odd-numbered wheeling it, but whatever, it is better than being completely alone. Alone was the other icky thing about today. If I hadn’t gone to the library and then to pick up something to eat, I probably wouldn’t have talked to another single person. An older gentleman held a door open for me while my hands were full, and I smiled and thanked him, and he smiled back. That was my one real human interaction for the day, and it was kind of nice.

I skipped over one other thing, which was maybe making some plans to see the friends who I barely got to see last night. There’s at least one interesting convention in the town they live in, apparently over Memorial Day weekend, so I might make it a priority to visit them this year. It always feels good to be around people who care, right?

My thought in titling this “lists” was a thought I had earlier today, about the things I was trying to get accomplished while on winter break. Today I really just wanted to 1) feel better 2) return a book to the library and 3) take a nap. Easily done, and thankfully feeling better is starting to happen. Then I decided at about 9pm to start organizing some comic books in my closet. In doing that, I had to remove a bunch of old boxes and the cat carriers. My poor orange cat has been hissing and flipping her shit ever since she saw the cat carriers, and I’ve already put them back into the closet. Soon enough, she’ll forget about it and stop being a little freak.

Organizing the comics was on my list of things I wanted to do while on winter break, so I was glad my sick and somewhat dehydrated brain decided to do it. I found some things I was glad to find, and some things I never heard of that seem pretty cool (I sort of inherited a bunch of comics which is why I didn’t know what all I had). I still need to get to the point where I know enough to flip some of the comics for cash, and to just dump off the rest. It’d be sweet if some of the Daredevil shit was worth something, because that character is such a fucker.

I have three more days left of vacation, and right now, I am not really sure what I have left that I want to get done. Writing-wise, I still want to finish one story. I intended to have that done by tonight, and I thought about the story some, and where it took that wrong turn. I even started to write a new thing, but couldn’t quite get into it. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for all of that.

A challenge

December 28, 2013

I have been reading this book that I have seen much praise for on the Internets, as one of the best (if not THE best) new sci-fi book of 2013. I wish I loved it like others have loved it, but I don’t. Though really, I guess I don’t truly wish that I felt the same as others. I’d rather have original thoughts.

I didn’t exactly pick up the book trying to find fault with it, either. I reserved it from the library with the hopes that it would be like many other books whose worlds have drawn me into them. Only this book isn’t really doing a very good job of that. I don’t enjoy the protagonist, who seems to have some unreliability issues, nor any of the other characters in the entire book, so far. I am halfway through and it’s been a chore to get this far. Just when I get interested again, something begins to bore me, but I’m on the downslide of the hill now. I want to finish it, to see if the ending is worth the journey there.

I was thinking about what compels me to finish reading something, and what stops me and has me cast a book aside. I use goodreads to track what I read, and I have abandoned more novels this year than just about any other year. When do I reach the point when I believe that reading further is a waste of my time? Is it when the book takes it’s nth turn down a stupid path? Or when I just can’t even relate or enjoy the protagonist’s journey? I am not sure. Maybe boring, tired prose that weighs down the narrative? Maybe even narrative that never excites me, or speaks to my frame of mind, or delights me with wordplay. Maybe all of that. Almost definitely more.

Thinking about abandoning novels for dull narratives makes me want to abandon my own life. Not in a sinister way, by any means. I’m simply not challenged from day to day, and I feel like I need that. It is like so little amuses me or distracts me from the mundane. I can hardly stand it. I wonder, sometimes, if anything will ever excite me again. I mean, sure, I get excited to see old friends, and to make new ones, to have intelligent conversations, and to try new things and learn new skills. It feels like lately any of that is a stop-gap from generalized boredom. I need a challenge. I ache for one, to get a bit melodramatic over here.

I know it’s winter, and I know what that does to me. I try to see outside of that, to who I am when I am standing someplace warm, with the sun shining all around me, squinting because the brightness hurts my eyes so. I look around, try to see where I am standing, and I just feel I am standing so very still. Stuck, without really being stuck. Dream-stuck, I suppose. It is like I don’t know where I am or where I am going. The path is, like, over that way or something, but I can’t even see it anymore. Frustrated with that, I want to turn my back on it, find some other way to go, but I’m imaginary lost, so will I only be imagining I’ve found where I want to be?

All I know, or at least what I feel to be true, is that a challenge is not going to find me. As usual, I am going to have to figure this out myself. And I will probably be all secretive and weird about it, because it’s my business, and mine alone. I worry and fret about declining into a state of abject loneliness. But I’ve always been made of so much more fight than degradation of self. I want to shake up this complacency, well then fucking fine. I will do that, then. No, I will do that now.

Learn Something New

December 26, 2013

I had been wanting to get this necklace for some time now. If you didn’t click through, (lazy me not just posting the picture of it), it’s a ceramic oval that says “Learn Something New Every Day” on it. Learning is my favorite, so this was high on my list of things I wanted. And so my mom got it for me for the holidays this year. Yay, Mom!

Immediately, something new popped up for me to learn about. I went to take my bike out for a quick ride to the library to drop off some things that were due back, when I noticed the front wheel was locked up. It seemed to be something frakked up with the brakes, so I immediately, like a giant nerd, went to Google with it. As I was searching, I was startled by a loud popping noise, that I immediately knew was the tire blowing out. Yeah, I screamed a little. It was loud and in the middle of my tiny living room it sounded like a gun went off. My poor cats ran into the other room away from the bad noise, and I was just like, “Okay, guess I am walking to the library.”

When I got back from the library, I looked up how to fix a flat and possible reasons for it. I figured whatever was frakked with the brakes was a likely culprit. But I didn’t have the tools to pull the tire back enough to inspect the tube, so I decided to… go to the comic book shop. This makes sense, I swear. I had forgotten that it was new Saga day (last week!!!) and so I wanted to go pick up my pull list stuff, and the comic shop just happens to be right across the street from a local bike shop. Two birds, one stone, blah blah.

But hey, you might wonder, aren’t you totally old enough to already know how to change a bike tire? Yeah, I am, but I hadn’t owned a bike in years until last year when I decided to get one for myself for my birthday. And hadn’t gotten to take it out much because of spine issues. And possibly also laziness, yeah, fine, whatever. So that is why I hadn’t had any issues with replacing bits of it til now.

The guy at the comic shop told me that they are having a pretty sweet sale tomorrow and Saturday, and I thought, “Yeah, maybe I will come back down. Friday is halvsies day at the thrift store down here, so maybe…” I like to have multiple reasons for driving someplace if it’s kind of out of my way. But then the bike shop guy said that if the tube and such that he sold me didn’t sort my problem, just to bring the bike in and he’d help me figure out what was wrong. Obviously, if you know anything at all about foreshadowing, things went wrong.

I got home, had some leftover Christmas pizza, and then set to work on the tire. It was pretty easy to get one side pulled out with the right tool. I pulled out the tube and saw the blow-out spot. Nothing seemed out of place with the tire, from what I could tell, so I put the new tube in and blew it up. Not 60 seconds later, BAM, there was that loud popping noise again, and my poor cats went running back to the bedroom to cower. Yeah, I was annoyed that I basically just wasted money on a new tube that I immediately ruined, but I was super glad the blow-out happened while I was not riding the bike.

I shook off my annoyance and retrieved the freshly ruined tube to inspect it. Sure enough, the blow-out was in the exact same spot as the other one, and even had the same pattern of explosion to it. So that means tomorrow I will just pack the bike into my compact car and see if the guys at the shop think the brakes frakked up the tire, and if something needs to be tweaked so it doesn’t happen to a brand new tire that I will probably have to purchase. Bonus that there is a Yelp check-in discount at this place for a tune-up, so that’ll come in handy if I have to get that done. Might as well, just to make sure the thing is safe to operate. So it looks like I should definitely see about learning a bit more about bicycle maintenance so I can sort out these things on my own, when I can. In this case, I think I might be in a little over my head on fixing it. I will find out more tomorrow. After all (cue cheesy after school special type music), it is important to learn something new every day.


December 25, 2013

“They are seasoned by rumors, I think.”
“They are seasoned by stupidity. And some of them with vodka, I have seen.”

That is a little snippet from a short story I have been trying to finish for months now. It took a turn that I didn’t want it to take and then I just kind of got stuck. I am not really sure how to proceed with it. I have tried re-writing it as it stands. I have tried just writing a new ending. I have tried picking it up at the place where it turned on me and twisting it another way. Nothing seems to be working. I really wanted to finish it, though. I think, maybe I should just continue with the idea in my head, and then try to write fresh from that. Maybe I could just take this snippet and flesh it out, see where it goes. There’s a lot of possibilities, I think, but I haven’t tried the more wild ones. I just glance at the file, grumble to myself, and then move on and try to write other things. So this piece lingers on, unfinished.

I wanted to finish a project, a small one, to have that success, so there, brain, there’s a project. Now just sit down, focus, and tap those damn words out.



December 24, 2013

I’ve been caught up in holiday preparations lately. I was trying to finish making a hat for my dad yesterday. Completed it and it did not meet my quality control inspection, so I started over. The good thing about hats is that they are super fast to knit, for the most part. Usually a day or weekend project. I brought my knitting with me to my parents’ house, and finished the hat by 9pm, which is around the time we usually exchange gifts.

I am not sure exactly what year we started opening presents on Christmas Eve. The only thing I do remember about that decision is that my dad was working midnights at the steel mill so we opened gifts early that year, and it was so nice to sleep in on Christmas morning that we’ve been doing it this way ever since. I might’ve been in undergrad when we started doing it this way, but I really don’t recall. Odds are it was around then, when I was on the icky anti-convulsant that fucked up my memory so hard. But anyway, it was at least 10 years ago, I think. Not that it really matters when, I am just trying a little too hard to grasp a memory that evades me, perhaps.

I said to my mom this year, “Can we do away with presents entirely next year?” I just hate the obligation of it. But I do really enjoy making gifts for people, and I wish I’d made more things this year. I think the only thing I hand-made was the hat for my dad. And my point in starting this post off with mentioning knitting the hat was how awesome it felt to finish that project, and then give it away.

Even the tiniest sense of accomplishment was something I really needed. I have been somewhat tiptoeing around that thought. Though I might have overtly discussed it in a post earlier this month. With that thought to the forefront, I know I need to finish a creative project soon. So I am setting that goal for myself, to finish something by Sunday night. Also, I am making a box of writing prompts, and it’s looking super cute so far. I should post more about that in a few days.

In conclusion of holiday stuff, I really enjoyed getting to see my family today. I am going back tomorrow, and this time I won’t have knitting taking up so much of my attention. Hopefully, my dad and I can play some card games and maybe a board game or two. I will have to go through my closet and bring the ones he doesn’t hate. (He loathes cooperative games like Pandemic and calls them “Games by Committee.”) And on that note, I guess Happy Holidays to the spambots who read this.