Friday, April 24, 2009

The Name Of The Wind (book review)

(shamelessly stolen from my review...)

While I do not consider myself a well-read fan of the fantasy genre (I'm more of a literary/horror follower), I picked a fantasy book up at random in a grocery store because I'm an English major with over a thousand books I've ALREADY read, and I needed a new one. So it was a complete gamble. Who is this Patrick Rothfuss fellow? I had no clue.

After reading The Name of the Wind, I can say without a doubt that this is one of the best books I've ever read. Each of the characters ends up feeling like a well-loved friend by the time you're finished, and when it does end, you wish you could stay in the Four Corners of Civilization longer. You'll probably reread the book to do just that.

And the emotional connections in the book are amazing - everyone from professional musicians to broke college students will find something to relate to. The writing style is lyrical and the relationships are moving. Descriptions of grief, desperation, and curiosity are set forth in loving detail and authenticity. Kvothe's journey from child prodigy among the gypsy-like Edema Ruh to his stormy adolescence among the alchemists and warlocks of the University is enthralling all the way through. Don't be surprised if you devour this tome in one sitting. I did.

Better than The Lord of the Rings for the poetic brevity of its prose, and miles above Harry Potter with its much more skilled rendition of the "young magician goes to school" theme. Kvothe is, literally, too cool for school, destined to be one of the great literary heroes of our time.

To sum it up: This book is the real deal, whether you're a fan of fantasy or not. Go buy it. Now. What are you waiting for?! I said now!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I have a confession to make...

I am proud of myself for growing about six full-sized heads of lettuce in an apartment garden lot, as well as an assortment of other vegetables...but I am reluctant to harvest.

Not because I don't want to try my scrumptious homegrown vegetables (I do!) but because they're actually pretty beautiful and I would miss going out there every morning at dawn before my neighbors get up to check on them. I will miss watching the dew gather on the edges of the leaves, making them look like they've been accessorized with diamonds. I will miss "petting" my broccoli (I like to rub my finger on the little fuzzy tree part because the texture is so funky.)

I have alternating rows of green and purple cabbage (which is a lot more ornamental than I thought it would be) and the onions are about three and a half feet high now. The leeks...I don't know what the heck they're doing. They still look like little sprigs of wild onion, and not like anything remotely edible. The spinach looks like something out of Jurassic Park. And the Saladzillas are amazing, like big fluorescent green roses. So shoot me if I don't want to pull them up and demolish them for actual salad.

But the broccoli have broccoli heads! I am pretty sure the brussels sprouts are pretty close to budding out. And my strawberry plant has five (count 'em!) white blossoms, which means I will probably get five strawberries for the entire summer harvest.

It will make me sad when I have to pull it up and make a big farewell salad though. Sad but delicious.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Storms and stories...

It rained buckets this weekend. Two kids from my old high-school were burned alive in their car when a drunk driver evading the police rammed them from behind and their car caught fire. It looks like something stomped one of my lettuces too...luckily, it was one of the little ones, not one of the big honking ones that are almost a foot and a half across.

I also finished a short story this weekend called "Animal Person", which is about a girl who is driving home from a house party when she runs over a werewolf that dashes out into the road in front of her. She gets out to see what it is that she hit, and what follows is a battle of Cujo proportions. The title is sort of a pun, since the drunk girl in question is not fond of animals. And while the girl is not an animal person, the werewolf is. Get it? Get it? Ah, y'all are no fun.

I am pretty happy with it, actually, and extremely pleased with myself in a general way for actually finishing something. It's been so long I'd actually forgotten how satisfying it is to lose yourself in a story that you're making up as you go. And short stories are inherently more satisfying than novels on a short-term basis - you get in, get your feet wet, and get out. 5,000 words or less is not a lot of room for elaboration, so if anything, short stories at least teach me how to trim the fat.

I also started a second short story called "Chasing the Guardian", which is about a group of Scottish fishermen who go on a hunt for the Loch Ness monster to avenge a drowned friend (the cousin of the narrator). It's sort of a Moby Dick type story with a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in, since the narrator is engaged to the daughter of the cryptozoologist who is trying to stop them.

I worked a bit with The Book this weekend too, just a few notes on the chapters I'm in progress on, but mostly I was engrossed in this bloody little five-page diversion.

It was fun, too. I forgot it could be fun. :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

I believe the world is burning to the ground.

I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone.
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour and I,
Started staring at the passengers waving goodbye,
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

But I believe the world is burning to the ground,
Oh well I guess we're gonna find out,
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come

I think it turned ten o'clock but I don't really know
Then I can't remember caring for an hour or so
Started crying and I couldn't stop myself
I started running but there's nowhere to run to
I sat down on the street, took a look at myself
Said where you going man you know the world is headed for hell
Say your goodbyes if you've got someone you can say goodbye to

I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well I guess we're gonna find out
Let's see how far we've come (right now)
Let's see how far we've come
Well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come

It's gone gone baby it's all gone
There's no one on the corner and there's no one at home
Well, it was cool cool, it was just all cool
Now it's over for me and it's over for you
Well it's gone gone baby it's all gone
There's no one on the corner and there's no one at home
Well, it was cool cool, it was just all cool
Now it's over for me and it's over for you

I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna find out
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come
Now well I, believe, it all, is coming to an end
Oh well, I guess, we're gonna pretend,
Let's see how far we've come (oh yeah)
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come
Let's see how far we've come

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Book(tm).

Probably every English major in the world has a book in them I think.

I have been working on slaying my first novel since about my freshman year of high school. I've been with it through 75,000 words and a title change. That doesn't necessarily mean I've been working on the novel for the last decade; like many other writers, I have a life outside of the world and the people I've created - I have a full-time job, a garden, pets to tend, dishes to wash, visiting to do. All this leaves me with precious little time to do what I really love, which is write. And that precious little time I have to write is often wasted on doing other things which have nothing to do with writing.

Which is why I sometimes get irritated when people ask, "When are you going to finish your book?" at times when I am lucky to be keeping my OWN life on an even keel, much less juggling the dozen or so lives of people I have invented. Luckily, the people who push me hardest are the ones who are rooting the hardest for me as well, so their enthusiasm is sustaining.

The funny thing about being a writer is that it is the ultimate love/hate relationship. As much as I love to write and as boppy, in-the-groove good I feel when I have cranked out a chapter, I will do anything and everything to avoid working on said novel. This leads to my favorite pastime, which is AVOIDING writing. Sometimes this is constructive, leading to a cleaning of the house (which is usually long-overdue) and sometimes, not so much (because sitting down with a video game and a six-pack is not nearily as fulfilling [or potentially lucrative] as writing). That doesn't stop me from doing those things though.

I have had some crappy jobs. I've loaded frozen dead dogs and cats into a flatbed truck for disposal at a kill shelter. I've coerced drunken arborists over the CB radio into PLEASE going to their assignments. I've cleaned up people's puke and shit and popcorn and spilled soda as a movie theater usher. So you would think writing and editing would be a breeze from the bee's knees in comparison, right?

I like how Orwell said it best: "All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand."

In other words, no job is harder than being a fiction writer. I won't be persuaded otherwise.

I have been working on my first novel, We Are The Weapon, since a few months after two planes destroyed the World Trade Center. I was not old enough to drive a car yet (or legally drink, or vote) when I started. As a result, a lot of this early writing has had to be meticulously revised, because the person I was at 15 is not who I am at 23.

I have been writing through two dirty, complicated wars and a rollercoaster ride of American international conflict that has left me jaded and rebellious. My politically-driven college years obviously had a profound effect on where I thought the novel should go, as has the growing sense of apocalyptic foreboding our society has taken on in the last year or so with the recession and predictions of the world's end in 2012.

Which is all well and good, since Weapon is all about war, apocalyptic destruction, subversion, and the things which come after humanity tries its hardest to destroy itself (and almost succeeds). It is, in effect, my American answer to Orwell's 1984, set twenty years after the beginning of World War III. The characters I have worked with in this novel I have known for almost a decade now (yeah, that's hard for me to believe) and I have come to love them like members of my own family. The reason I stay with them is because even though their world is so hard, their hopes and dreams and petty struggles keep me pulling for them (and occasionally, when the mood strikes me, getting them out of some pretty spectacular trouble)...

During said decade, I went through several periods of creative hiatus where I dabbled in other things I am interested in - painting, gardening, screenplays, editing, short stories, freelance magazine articles, all in an effort to circumnavigate this huge honking novel, which is dark and gritty and weighs heavily on my mind at all times. My day to day life is dreadfully mundane, but at night, I am all trip-wires and nuclear holocaust and smugglers and totalitarian governments and death.

So, needless to say, being a writer is exhausting, even when I'm not working on The Book(tm). Or a short story collection I've been playing with. Or my second novel, Everybody But Lazarus, which was actually supposed to be my first novel and was set on the backburner for Weapon. So in order to work on that novel, a story about werewolves and zombie hunters and other assorted supernatural phenomenon set against the Deep South, I will have to finish the first one.

Back to the writing board.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Attack of the monster lettuce!!!

Due to an inordinate amount of rain that has fallen on northern Alabama in the last two weeks, my lettuces and cabbages are definitely a foot across now. They went from tiny little sproutlings to Saladzillas in just a few days.

To my overwhelming surprise, everything else in the garden (with the except of the sage, leeks, and oregano) is thriving. Even the French tarragon, which I was sure would die a brown and crunchy death like the other two herbs, has taken over the rest of the planter box where the sage and oregano used to be. And my strawberries have blossoms! The onions are so big their tops have fallen over (will that hurt them? *makes note to research*) and the broccoli/brussels sprouts are HUGE.

I think a lot of this sudden growth spurt is due to the fact that when it heats up here, no amount of bathtub watering-can trudging gets the plants as wet as they'd like. Nothing really does it except for a good deep Southern drenching. And the plants give back what they get.

Luckily for me, late March/early April is officially monsoon season in Alabama, so we have been getting a LOT of rain. Also many tornadoes and lots of thunder.

I am still torn on what I am going to do with my plants when I move here in a month or so. The lettuces will probably be made into a big final goodbye salad; I'll also harvest the onions. The tarragon can come with me, because it's in a planter, as can the strawberries. But the cabbage, the brussels sprouts, the broccoli...none of that stuff is ready for harvest, and probably won't be by the time I leave. So I think what I'm going to do is just leave them in place and see if the next owners take care of them...