THIS, y'all, this is why I do it.

So, y'all know I'm pretty fanatical about reading. In fact, I read more than I write, and that's a whole helluva lot. I make it my business to get through 2-3 books per week, if the vagaries of the new gig and time allow. And there's a reason for it. I could easily say I don't have time to read but -
the truth is, if I don't have time to read, 
then I'm not a serious writer

Books are my university, my mentors, my safety net, my go-to for writing advice. So I thought I'd share a few of the things I've read recently, and little snippets that taught me something:

From Ramsey Campbell's THE INFLUENCE:
"Hermione almost dropped the flashlight. The lit wall nodded toward them..."

What it taught me: Tis a small thing, but my first instinct when writing about a flashlight would be to view it from the vantage point of the beam of light. I like how he turned it around, and had the wall nodding instead. Nice.

A reviewer wrote, "When other horror writers were cranking up tension [with] physical horror, Campbell managed by sheer writing skill. This is very much akin to what one might expect had Camus or Sartre ever written a supernatural thriller." Damn.

From Daryl Gregory's PANDEMONIUM:

"Kansas had the purity of a sixth-grade math problem, an exercise in scale and stark geometry."

What it taught me: To look at description seriously freshly, to really see a scene and come at it from an unexpected angle. Who woulda come up with something mathematical to describe a landscape??

A reviewer wrote, "Daryl Gregory can write like a son-of-a-bitch." I'll say.

From Joe R. Lansdale's "The Night They Missed the Horror Show" (full story at that link, tho it's not for the faint of heart) from his collection of stories, BY BIZARRE HANDS (I'll pull out a couple of snippets):

"They tied Leonard's hands behind his back. Leonard began to cry. ... The chain took up slack and Leonard felt it jerk and pop his neck.  He began to slide along the ground like a snake. ... When he hit the bridge, splinters tugged at his clothes so hard they ripped his pants and underwear down almost to his knees. ... Leonard picked up speed and the chain rattled over the edge of the bridge, into the water .... The last sight of Leonard was the soles of his bare feet, white as the bellies of fish."

What it taught me: To be unflinching. I actually had to put the book away and go watch, like, Dr. Phil or something to clear the horror from my head and stop my hands from trembling. It still chills me. And I'm nowhere near unflinching enough in my own work - YET - but I know that's where I need to be.

A reviewer wrote of the short story, "[Lansdale] digs in with a keenly honed medical saw. The reader laughs and screams and falls dead silent. Maybe in the same paragraph." Yeah. And shudders and feels ill. Great work.

From "My Pretty Pony," a short story in Stephen King's NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES: 

"All those days, stretching away across the plains of June and July and over the unimaginable horizon of August."


"Grandpa knocked another roll of ash off his cigarette with the side of his thumb. The boy believed Grandpa was so lost in thought that the wind was smoking practically all of it for him."

What it taught me: That even tiny shards of realism can be poetic.

These are the tiny lessons I pick up from books. Seriously, if you're not reading a lot, you're missing out on the tiny gems, the turns of phrases, the character-revealing dialogue -- all the ways you can bend the language. No education like it.

Me? I just finished Mike Shevdon's SIXTY-ONE NAILS (nifty little Feyre novel, outta my genre but I read everything), and have to take a break from Hawking's THE GRAND DESIGN (that shit makes my head hurt), so I'm casting about for the next in my TBR pile...we'll see what it turns up. So what are you reading?

Ooh, a ghost story.

In a few minutes, I'll be finishing up some work for the new copyediting gig. And you know what time it'll be then?

 That's right; time to pack up the chirrun and go see PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2. Squee!

Check out this trailer and tell me you aren't shivering in anticipation.

Shivering yet? No? Okay, so it's just me. Though part of that quivering is due to the movie's big-budget release (this time 'round, PA1 writer/director Oren Peli had $3 million to play with as producer and a new director, Tod Williams).

The first was made on a shoestring ($10K), and I think that always tends to make filmmakers more hungry, more desperate to get the thing right. So I hope the mayjuh duckets doesn't ruin this one. Mo' money, mo' prollems, right? And I read this NY Times piece on the sequel, and, yeah, I'm a little noivous.

But still. I'm not ashamed to say I dug the first one - and that a question it prompted served as the inspiration for the current MS. So I'm hopeful for this one.

Here's a quick discussion of PA2 through the eyes of a paranormal investigator.

Here, Peli discusses PA 2.

If you care, here's a sit-down with Peli from last year.

ENN-EE-WAY. So tell me, did you see the first PARANORMAL ACTIVITY? What did you think? Gonna see the second?

Courage, you.

Since my last post was a big black ingress into the equally big and black tumble dryer of my mind when it's blazing with big, black things (like frustration, fear and mistrust of one's own process), I thought I'd do a drive-by post offering something bright and magnificent: courage.

Also, thanks to Daryl Gregory's PANDEMONIUM (dudes, buy it now, run quick, I'll wait) I'm freshly inspired.

Anyway, here's editor Alan Rinzler's toasty post on building some courage. An excerpt:

"Appreciate the difficult things you already know how to do, like teaching a class of unruly teenagers, climbing a tricky trail, or writing a letter to someone who owes you money. Or skydiving, for the adrenalin junkies out there!  That mythic, over-the-edge leap into the abyss.

This accomplishes two things: If you pick the toughest thing you’re able to do that isn’t working on your book, it’s relatively easier to sit alone in a room and move your fingers over the keyboard. And it can poke up the can-do confidence and bravery thermometer in your head. That may stimulate some wild new idea to escape your unconscious."

Good words, right? Right. Back to work with me, now with bonus(!) courage. Be brave, folks.

On holding your own fucking hand

Brief-ish post, cuz the Zoe, she's a-writing. (And finding a minute to chill with the always awesome Alesa Warcan! Shout out!!)

Anyway, today Zoe's actually a-bitchin. At herself (and you'll forgive the peevish tone, cuz Zoe's also a-pissed. At herself.) For plowing through the Internetz, looking for The Right Answer. While knowing all the while that of course this is what I'd find:

There is no got-damned right answer. 
Because there is no got-damned answer at all.

What I needed an answer for? A desk absolutely, positively littered, shelled, shrapneled, pasted, papered, hell--sown with notes. And all are pretty interesting, pretty chirpy, but also pretty fucking DEADENING.

Cuz now that I'm at shit-hitting-fan stage, i.e. it's climax time, I'm exploding under a barrage of notes that zoom in like Japanese Zeroes (Zoe remember this; don't forget Devon's doing that; wait your demon looks like this; be sure to drop this little theme-bomb in here like so; ooh here's a cool bit of dialog don't forget to put it here). Too late to duck and cover. FUUUUCCK!

It's drowning a sista. So much that I can't write forward for fear of missing something important, something that might be scrawled on the back of an AT&T bill envelope or Post-It, way the hell at the bottom of a messy stack of notes.

So I actually fired up the netz and searched "novel writing too many notes".

I'm serious, y'all. I actually looked for an answer to that. Today. Sheeshy-fucking-SHEESH.

And what did I find?


Big surprise. Cuz you know what the answer is? *sound of crickets chirping*

Right. At least that's what the answer is out there. And I already knew that. Just as I already knew the answer to The Great Note Kamikaze of 2010 is in here.

(Like ta hear it? Here it go: 1) don't paper your desk with notes in the first place, DUH. Keep 'em in a notes document. All in one place. Take the time between writing pages to organize those fuckers chronologically, story-wise, so you don't get bogged down. 2) Forget the notes while you're drafting. Notes are for revision.)

And something else I noticed? When I was frantically flipping through notes, they all felt...old. Because I'd already incorporated them into the MS organically - i.e. my brain had hold of most of 'em the whole time. I just didn't trust it to.

So. In case you're like I was just this morning, searching for the Right Pep Talk, the Right Tip, the Right Answer, the Right Hand-Holding, know this:

There ain't be no fucking right answers. And there ain't be no right fucking hand-holding.

Hold your own hand. Trust yourself. I mean, it's your own got-damned process, isn't it?

On Being A Brown Recluse...

So what if my introversion is a knitted body tube? You got a problem with knitted body tubes? Huh?
Yanno, many a week'll go by without an update here; I think I'm averaging about five posts per month. I routinely forget to check RallyStorm to see what's coming up for my Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog chain. I get around to checking my blog roll updates only rarely. Commenting on blogs? A scarcity, lemme tell you.

Also, I NEVER answer the phone (Hubs'll call a thousand times before I pick up; he'll stare when the ringing home phone fails to rouse even a flicker in my eyes; my son, Gabriel, will race to my cell when it beeps with an incoming text alert, absolutely boggled that I don't seem to care.). And don't get me started on social engagements (they are SO few and far between).

Why venture outside when my head's already teeming with life inside?
So what am I doing with all that time to myself? Being a brown recluse (yes, I'm brown, AND can be particularly venomous when need be). If I'm not writing, I'm reading. When I'm not doing that, I'm jogging or working out a couple times a day. Damn you, scary all-day sitting!)

Though I'm happy to haunt the rooms of my house, which is isolated in itself, way out in rural Georgia (I'm talking cow country, y'all) -- I do have moments of guilt. Gee, Z, you really should read more blogs. Answer the phone. Meet friends for dinner. (Working on the latter: seeing Alesa Warcan soon for BBQ & shenanigans!! *waves to Alesa*). Most times, the guilt goes sidewinding away after a bit.

Other times, I look elsewhere to justify my reclusivity. To wit: a fellow kindred recluse, Danielle Steel. This is what she had to say about hiding out at home when writing (part of a post on her writing process).

"I don’t talk to anyone..., don’t return calls, don’t see anyone, and don’t leave the house. I go from my bed to my desk, to my bathtub at the end of my workday, then back to bed, and then back to work. I work about 20 to 22 hours straight, sleep for 3 or 4 hours, and then go back to work. And I do that until I have told the story and the first draft is finished."

So, at least it's not just me. Though, even if it were, I'd be nowhere to be found when it came time to explain myself. Cuz it's just me. What about you? Introvert? Extrovert?