Saturday, December 25, 2004

I've got a new bit of Combat! fanfic posted, for those of you who'd like to read it. It doesn't really have a title, although I call it "Lost". You can find it at http://www.storynook.net/WQSaundersentry.html . It's what's called a 'challenge entry'--every now and then, one of the members of the C!-fanfic-writers email list issues a challenge. They can set it up however they want, and then whoever wants to can write a story for it. I always tell myself I'm not gonna write for the latest challenge, I'm gonna keep focusing on whatever other story I've got going...but I respond to a fair number of them anyway. Sometimes they're really complex, like the challenge I wrote "Bulletproof" for, which said you had to have Doc, Kirby, Littlejohn, Billy, a sniper, a jeep, a flat tire, and Doc had to get really badly wounded. Or there was the Halloween challenge (remember "The Carver"?), and recently we did a Christmas challenge (for which I wrote a story that's not yet ready for public perusal). Anyway this particular challenge was pretty simple: just focus on one character who thinks Sgt. Saunders is dead.

I focused on Lt. Hanley, cuz I'm really interested in the relationship between him and Saunders, and how it changed once Hanley got his commission. And I'm trying to dig into the character of Hanley lately, cuz I've neglected him (in favor of my darling Saunders) for a long time. As the story evolved, it turned into a sort of prequel to my earlier story "Intermission" (http://www.storynook.net/WQIntermission.html). I actually wrote the first draft of "Lost" in the car on the way to my Grandma's funeral, so a lot of Hanley's physical reactions are drawn from my own experiences of a few days previous. And I've gotta thank my fellow Queen of America, ED, for indirectly inspiring me by commenting (ages ago) that a couple names in "Intermission" kinda confused her...

So anyway, Merry Christmas, and enjoy the new story!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

This morning in church, our pastor said something in his sermon that I think gave me a sudden glimpse of understanding into the doctrine (?) of grace. Sure, I'd learned about grace from my dad and read about it and heard sermons about it countless times. And I'd learned the cool little word thingy:

God's
Riches
At
Christ's
Expense

But I'd never really quite gotten just how freeing the grace of God is until our pastor said it this morning, in words about like these (quoting from memory after sleeping 6.5 hrs between then and now, folks): "Not only do we not have to earn God's love and forgiveness, we can't." There's nothing we can ever do that could earn it, so it's totally a gift from God. And since we can't do anything, we don't have to do anything! Which is why our good works are fruits of faith, not points toward heaven. I don't know why, but this just all seems much clearer to me suddenly than it ever has before. And I don't know about you, but when somebody requires me to do something I get really bucky and stubborn and don't want to do it, but if I don't have to do something, I suddenly really want to!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Hee hee, posting that Combat! song the other day has gotten me back in the parody-ing mood. So here's a festive Buffy the Vampire Slayer song for your enjoyment:

"A Slaying Song"
by me
(to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Graveyard smells,
Churchyard bells,
Cemetery grey:
Oh what fun it is to hide
And watch the Slayer play--hey!
Gaping hells,
Wicked spells,
Vampires hunting prey...
Oh what fun it is to hide
While Buffy joins the fray!

Headstones row by row
Guide her on her way;
In the shadows, though,
Her Scooby Gang will stay.
While she does her thing
We cheer with all our might.
Oh what fun it is to sing
A slaying song tonight!

(refrain)

A night or two ago,
We got all filled with pride,
And thought some deadly foe
We'd fight at Buffy's side.
But soon our spirits sank;
Our weakness we'd forgot.
That demon's battle tactics stank,
But scare him we did not!

(refrain)

Monday, December 13, 2004

I have regained my joie d'vivre! I woke up tonight bathed in a happy mental golden glow. It's the first time since Grandma's funeral that I've felt back to my usual cheery self. I had an incredibly good night at work, and came home full of Christmas spirit. Huzzah!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Yippeeeeeee! My Season Two dvds of Combat! have arrived! There are 16 eps on them that I have never seen before! I don't know if I can contain my joy. In celebration, here is a parody (sorta) about Combat! that I wrote back in 1999 (begun at 8:01am on August 13th, to be precise). Sing it to the tune for Don't Rain on My Parade (as sung by Bobby Darin for best results)

"Don't Ridicule Combat!"
by me

Don't tell me not to watch,
I've simply got to.
If someone's eyes get crossed,
It's me and not you.
Don't bring around a crowd
To ridicule Combat!

Don't tell me "Get a life,"
Just like my mother.
These reruns are my life--
I want no other.
Who told you you're allowed
To ridicule Combat!?

I'm gonna march my squad out
To a distant drum.
And if there's an ad break,
Don't change the
Channel,
We might miss the beginning
Panel.
Who cares about who's winning?

But whether you're the husband
Of perfection
Or else a pretty wife
With pure complexion,
Or parents who raised me
On fruitcake and cheese,

I shall ignore you
If it must bore you,
Don't say that sore you
Will be.
Saunders and Hanley,
Littlejohn, Billy,
Caje, Doc, and Kirby
Thrill me.

So get ready for me, Sarge,
'Cause I'm a-comin'.
Just give the order now
And I'll start runnin'.
Nobody,
I said nobody,
Nobody had better
Ridicule Combat!

("A Distant Drum" is the title of an episode, and fruitcake and cheese are references to the episodes "The Long Way Home" and "A Day in June", respectively)

Friday, December 03, 2004

I don't particularly feel ready to blog about Grandma dying yet, or about the funeral. Just thought I should note that she did die, and we went to the funeral earlier this week.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A long and whiny post about Cowboy has been stewing in my brain all night, but now I'm not sure I want to write it. See, I finally convinced him to read my blog a couple days ago. And when he'd finished it, he announced that it didn't really contain anything he hadn't already heard me say. This, predictably (if you know me), angered me. Because this obviously (to me) means that either I haven't thought of anything new for a long time, or else he thinks he knows all there is to know about me. And it's far too soon for that! We've only been married for two and a half years! This is not how it's supposed to be. It's supposed to be like at the end of Giant where Rock Hudson tells Elizabeth Taylor "If I live to be ninety, I'm never gonna figure you out." I always thought that was the greatest thing for him to tell her, although I'm still not entirely sure why (Note: I don't know why I was worried, because if I don't know everything there is to know about myself yet, then there's no way Cowboy could).

However, I'm not going to write that long and whiny post. Because I confronted Cowboy with this new peeve, and he said that he was very reassured when he read my blog and found out that the Hamlette he knows is the same Hamlette that's online, that I don't have some dark and disturbing part to myself that gets unleashed cyberically. AND he said that he hasn't figured me out yet (whew!), but rather, he knows me the same way he knows the Social Security Administration (this is his exact example): he knows what I've said and done in the past and has a vague idea what my purpose is, but if asked what I would do or say in a given hypothetical situation, he would have no clue.

Huzzah! This is quite reassuring. My lifelong quest to be mysterious and enchanting has not fizzled after all.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Last night, I found out my Grandma H. had a stroke a day or so ago. I guess she's not doing very well, because they called the immediate family in. So Mom is flying to IA even as I type. When I talked to her online last night, she seemed pretty calm about it. As she put it, it's like we already said 'good-bye' to Grandma H. a couple years ago, when we found out she had Alzheimer's after Grandpa H. died. But still...if Grandma H. dies, I'll only have Grandma O. left of all my grandparents, since Grandpa O. died when I was like 16. That's a pretty weird feeling for me. Unlike a lot of people I know (like Cowboy), until I was 16, all four of my grandparents were alive. I lived quite a way away from them, since they all lived in IA, and we moved away from there when I was 3. But I was still fairly close to my grandparents.

See, we'd spend all of the month of July living with Grandpa and Grandma H. in their little house in Hospers during the week, and then on the weekends, we'd go to Grandpa and Grandma O.'s farm. And my H. grandparents would come to visit us once or twice a year too, until I was maybe 16 or so, spending a week with us in the spring and the fall. Sometimes my O. grandparents would visit us too. All four of them came to NC for my Confirmation when I was 13. By the time I got married in 2002, Grandma O. was the only one able to make the trip.

Grandma H. taught me a lot about sewing, whupped me at Scrabble, and made the greatest Dutch Almond Bars ever. Grandpa H. took me for walks to the post office and the bank (where we got free caramels). He really loved those no-bake chocolate cookies. I learned to play pool in their basement. We'd play Rummikub together for hours. Every weeknight, we watched Joepardy! and Wheel of Fortune.

And my O. grandparents went on these amazing road trips with us. When I was 6, they and my parents and my little brother all piled into the Green Car and drove into every state west of the Mississippi River in about 10 days. We also did other trips in later years, to places like Washington, D.C., Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, and all the way along the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Oregon. Grandpa let me help him drive the combine when I was little, and Grandma would let me help feed the calves.

To top all this off, the piece I'm working on getting published with Guideposts is about the last time I spend a good chunk of life with my H. grandparents: Easter Break of 2000. Grandma H. might die before I ever get nationally published, something that would have made her so pleased and proud. And even if she's still alive in March, her Alzheimer's is too far along for her to know anyway...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I just read an astounding new book: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Well, it's not 100% new; it first got published in 2002. But considering that the last book I read was published in 1897, it's pretty new. There's a sequel out now: Lost in a Good Book, which I plan to read as soon as the new bookstore in town gets it in for me.

Anyway, about The Eyre Affair. It's incredibly hard to describe, but I'll try. It's set in 1985, but not the 1985 we knew...in this 1985, things like time travel and pet dodos are common. The main character, Thursday Next, is a literature detective, and she eventually winds up inside the book Jane Eyre, helping Mr. Rochester rescue Jane from the evil genius who kidnapped her. You can see how this would appeal to me--I dig scifi/fantasy, and what wouldn't I give to step inside some of my favorite books (of which Jane Eyre is obviously one)? It's a well-written book, with great bits like this:

"We try to make art perfect because we never manage it in real life..." (pg 271)

Or here's a section where the character Hobbes from the book interacts with the character Grace Poole in Jane Eyre, as he prepares to kidnap its title character:

"I'm, um, with Mr. Mason," he stammered.
"Rubbish," she replied, staring at him dangerously.
"I want Jane Eyre," he stammered.
"So does Mr. Rochester," she replied in a matter-of-fact tone. "But
he doesn't even kiss her until page one hundred and eighty-one." (pg 296)

See the fun possibilities?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I've mentioned the show Combat! quite often lately, so I thought I'd do a whole post about it, just explaining what it is and my relationship to it. (This will definitely be long)

Combat! ran from 1962-1967 and has 152 episodes. It focuses on American Infantrymen in Normandy after the D-Day Invasion in 1944. The two main stars are Vic Morrow (Sgt. Chip Saunders) and Rick Jason (Lt. Gil Hanley). There were also five other regulars, who made up Sgt. Saunders' squad: Jack Hogan (Pvt. William Kirby), Pierre Jalbert (Pvt. Paul "Caje" Lamay), Dick Peabody (Pvt. Littlejohn), Tom Lowell (Pvt. Billy Nelson), and Conlan Carter (Doc). Actually, the show had two "Doc" characters. The first season has what we call "Doc 1", played by Steven Rogers. But that character was really boring, and I guess Rogers had some personal issues at the time, so seasons 2-5 have "Doc 2". When you read fanfic or listen to fans talk, when they say "Doc" they generally mean "Doc 2". If they mean "Doc 1", they'll say "Doc 1" or "Doc Walton", which is a name the publicity dept. gave him, but which was never used in the show.

Of the stars, all but three are still alive. Vic Morrow died while filming the infamous helicopter scene for Twilight Zone: the Movie (there was a huge court case, and you can find out a lot about it by googling if you want to; I've even seen footage of the crash, which is not pleasant) back in the early 1980's. Rick Jason committed suicide a few years ago, and Dick Peabody died of cancer a year or two later.

The show itself is the longest-running WWII drama in tv history. It had lots of amazing writers (like Gene Levitt and Burt Kennedy), directors (like Richard Donner and Robert Altman) and guest stars (like James Coburn, Charles Bronson, James MacArthur, and a zillion others). Combat! was about as realistic as tv could be in the mid-sixties, or at least non-news tv. It focused on the people involved in war, and was ahead of its time in that it didn't dehumanize the enemy, and worked hard to show the wastefulness inherent in war. The mid-series two-part episode, "Hills are for Heroes" (which Vic Morrow directed) is an amazing look at the useless slaughter that can happen during war. Oh yeah, Vic Morrow got nominated for an Emmy for the first-season ep "Survival", which Robert Altman directed (I'm not a big Altman fan, as he ran off with Morrow's wife, but he did direct some lovely eps). For all the info you would probably ever want about the show, visit Jo Davidsmeyer's site at www.combatfan.com or www.jodavidsmeyer.com/combat/main.html , although she's been having some issues with her server lately and sometimes the site won't load.

So, about my relationship to the show (sorry, this is a really long posting, isn't it?). Back in 1994, a new tv channel started up near where we lived, and was showing all sorts of great old shows. They didn't have a listing for it in the local tv guide yet, so my brother and I would just check in every half hour or so to see what was on. One day we checked, I think around 10am, and it was this black-and-white war show with two guys on the screen. One of them said, "You'll go far with that kind of attitude," and the other one said, "Do you mean far in the army, or far over that rough area back there?" We watched a couple minutes, until the opening credits came up and told us we were watching Combat!. We ran to Daddy and said, "Did you ever hear of a show called Combat!?" He said, "Yeah, that was a really good show," or something to that effect, and we started taping it for a few weeks. The first full ep I ever saw was "The Walking Wounded", and it's still my favorite ep. We just found out this year that that very first bit we saw is in an ep called "The Prisoner". Anyway, Sgt. Saunders sauntered his way into my heart quite easily, and I've been hooked ever since. I was 14, and my brother was 9 at the time.

When I got to college, I joined the online Combat! email discussion group, and haven't been off it for more than a month or two ever since. I'd written a few short stories about the show back in high school, but when I joined the discussion group I really discovered fanfiction (or fanfic). I soon improved and lengthened one of my old stories, and in 1999 sometime, "The Escapist" got published online. I followed it with two more stories involving the title character of that one, a certain Private Puling I'd made up. Next began what is now my Fog Trilogy, three stories occuring more-or-less simultaneously and showing what happens to different members of the squad when they got split up by some fog. This Spring, I joined a newer discussion group too, which is all fanfic writers (well, a few fanfic readers too, but we tend to convince them to try to write). All but one of my stories are posted on the Purple Hearts page (http://www.storynook.net/PurpleHearts.htm) under the name 'White Queen'; "Bulletproof", my first Combat!/Angel crossover, is on the regular Story Nook Combat! page (http://www.storynook.net/Combat.html).

One last thing: Combat! is now available on dvd! Season One is out already, and Season Two will be released November 30th, with the other seasons to follow, probably in March, July, and November of next year. Huzzah! You can also catch it on some cable and satellite channels, like Encore's Action Channel and I think Nickelodeon's TV Land might show some too. The channel I originally watched it on back in 1994 no longer shows it, although they still retain the right to, last time I checked. But I have Season One on dvd now, and Season Two preordered!

"Love me, love my sergeant!" Vive l'Combat!

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Today I shall share with you three tips for making extra-tasty hot chocolate. First, add a little milk or cream--this will cool it down if you use boiling water, and makes it richer. Second, try putting a pinch or two of chili powder in your hot chocolate and stirring it up (I got this one from the movie Chocolat)--it makes it thick and tasty (although Cowboy insists he can't tell a difference...but what do men really know about chocolate, after all?). Third, stick a mini candy cane (or part of a big one) in your hot chocolate and let it melt. I don't know what would happen if you did chili powder and candy cane at the same time--I haven't gotten around to trying that yet.

Everybody knows about whipped cream, cinnamon, and marshmallows, right? Tell me I don't need to explain those to you.

Time for supper. Cowboy is freshly showered and hungry.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I voted today, as did Cowboy, and we met the Housekarl on the way out. I can't believe how many people are all invigorated about voting this year! The place was packed.

Since voting is pretty much a big question of who is your favorite this or that, here are some more of my favorite things. Oh, I went back to my Oct 23 posting and changed that, adding some elucidation of why I love the things I do, and removing some of the things there so I could put them here with others like them. If that makes no sense, well, neither do I most of the time, I verily believe...

My Favorite __________

#1 TV Show: Combat! (I love stuff set in WWII, and the writing and characters rock!)
#2 TV Show: Angel (It started out as a noirish PI show, and I just kept loving it after that. And did I mention David Boreanaz is hot?)
Combat! Character: Sgt. Chip Saunders (He's tough but sweet, a good warrior that hates war; I've loved him since I was 14 and saw my first ep)
Angel Character: Angel (I'm a sucker for 'Byronic' heroes*, and he's practically an archtype. And did I mention the hotness of David B, who plays him?)
#1 Lord of the Rings Character: Boromir (brave, oh-so-human, and mildly Byronic)
#2 Lord of the Rings Character: Samwise Gamgee (the scene where he says: "I may not be able to carry the ring for you, Mr. Frodo, but I can carry you" makes me weep--he's so brave!)
Harry Potter Character: Sirius Black (amazingly Byronic, and so sweet! Plus, I'm all about escaping from prisons)
Star Wars Character: Han Solo (cocky and smooooth, with a touch of Byronic brooding...and hello? Harrison Ford!)
Shakespearean Play: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Um, yeah, I've read it like 14 times and seen 4 movie versions, and I have gobs of it memorized. It's a very cathartic experience for me, whether I watch or read it)
Indiana Jones movie: The Last Crusade (Indy and his dad play off each other so brilliantly!)
Superheroes: Wolverine (Byronic), Spiderman (snarky), and Robin (vulnerable)

(more to come...)

*'Byronic' heroes: So called because Lord Byron wrote several characters, most prominently the title character in Manfred, who were gloomy, broody, and isolated, with a dark past and lots of inner conflict. Readers found these types to be both frightening and compelling, and the type gained popularity, especially during the Romantic Age, I think. I've realized recently that many of the characters I love are quite Byronic.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

I got two long, white envelopes today, the business-size kind. Both hand-addressed. One came from my Daddy, and one from El Padre (El Padre is my father-in-law; we settled on that as the thing I should call him because we both love old cowboy movies and because Spanish is one of the gazillion languages he speaks).

In the envelope from Daddy was a note in his angular scrawl congratulating me on the piece I'm getting published in "Guideposts" in March, and $40 for Cowboy and I to use to celebrate. Don't I have the sweetest Daddy?

In the envelope from El Padre was a long letter in his mediumly-old-fashioned cursive giving me advice on how to be a better writer and telling me he hopes I don't lock myself out anymore :-)

Just thought it was interesting to get long envelopes from both of my father-figures on the same night, both involving my writing.

And speaking of my writing, I've got a new piece of Combat! fanfic up on the Purple Hearts page (http://www.storynook.net/WQCarver.html). It's called "The Carver", and it's just a short Halloween story...I'm still working on that Angel/Combat! crossover.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I've just begun reading Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote (how do you pronounce 'Capote' anyhow?), and I like it so much better than the movie! I think I've mentioned here before, years ago, that I don't like the way the movie ends. I just don't feel Holly and the writer fit together or will be happy. But the book starts out with them quite clearly not together, and then tells how he met Holly Golightly, etc, in retrospect. I don't think I've ever read anything by Capote before, oddly enough; if I have, it was just a short story in some lit class. But I'm quite enjoying his style--it's sort of a melding of Hemingway and Chandler and maybe Fitzgerald. He's got something of Hemingway's eye for detail, Chandler's odd descriptiveness, and Fitzgerald's aching characters. Not that Hemingway's and Chandler's characters aren't full of pain, mind you, but they lack the dazzling doomedness of Fitzgerald's creations.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Several different people at my job have, over the past 16 months, told me that I read books the way they watch movies (I read on my hour-long lunch in the breakroom). I just remembered that Professor Czer, my lit prof and advisor, once told me I watch movies the way she reads books. Hmmm.

I think I know what my coworkers mean--I react to books the way they react to movies. I laugh, sometimes out loud, when I'm reading, and I've been known to cry too (for instance, while reading the fifth Harry Potter book when Sirius Black died), for all the breakroom's inhabitants to see. So they mean I interact with books more than they're used to.

But what did Czer mean? I don't even think I've watched a whole movie with her. Sure, we watched bits of Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing in her lit classes (several times, over the years). I suppose she meant I talk about movies the way she talks about books--I delve into the characters and plots and scrutinize them. I don't just sit there and let the images wash over me. Hmmm.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Since it seems I am addicted to lists and also have a great many favorite this or that, here is a list of my random favorite things, and some musings on them...

My Favorite _______

Author: Raymond Chandler (for his amazing words)
Singer: Bobby Darin (because he always makes me smile, and he's got such a fantastic range)
Bands: Creed, Matchbox 20, Bon Jovi (they rock my world!)
Soda: Coca-Cola (tasty and has great nostalgic collectibles)
State: North Carolina (lived there and loved it)
City: Charleston, SC (full of history and beauty and Suthun Chahm)
Animal: Horse (they're so majestic)
Inkpen color: Blue (especially Papermate blue pens--they write smoothly)
Ice Cream Flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip (a little sweet, a little sharp)
Candy Bar: Snickers (a divine combo of crunchy and chewy and melty)
Holiday: Christmas (you know that Elvis song that goes, "If every day could be just like Christmas/What a wonderful world this would be"? That was totally written about me)
Song: "Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin (blaringly alive, and makes me feel that way too)
Words at the Moment: 'Brilliant' and 'Mad'

(more to come...)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I'm yearning for snow. It started yesterday morning, when I walked out of work and saw the billowy dark clouds above the parking lot. Suddenly I want to curl up in my rocking chair that used to be my Grandma's, with a really great old book and my Sheriff Woody (from Toy Story) mug full of hot chocolate. I want to walk outside and see soft white snow everywhere, like a layer of frosting on an elegant cake. I want that anticipatory glee that I feel when it's cold and snowy and Christmas approacheth. And I know this will all come soon enough. I'm glad for this yearning, because it's something I can expect to have fulfilled. It replaces, to some extent, my desperate yen for Cowboy to finally get one of those jobs he's been applying for, to finally move on to a more permanent life. I still want those things, but not with quite such painful immediacy anymore. Now I long more earnestly for snow and hot chocolate and Christmas.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A commenter has noted that for someone who adores old movies, my Top Ten list of favorite movies seems pretty accessible and modern. So I'm here expanding it to Top Thirty...it'll give you an even better idea of my tastes...if you care...

My Top Thirty Favorite Movies Of All Time

30. The Trouble with Harry
29. The Shiek
28. The Mask of Zorro
27. The Patriot (the Mel Gibson movie, not the Steven Seagal one)
26. Witness
25. X-2: X-Men United
24. 10 Things I Hate About You
23. The Great Escape
22. The Man Without a Face
21. Moonstruck
20. Chocolat
19. Ben-Hur
18. Tombstone
17. We're No Angels
16. The Searchers
15. Silverado
14. Operation Pacific
13. The Magnificent Seven
12. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (okay, this is 3 movies, but one entity)
11. Charade
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
9. Moulin Rouge!
8. While You Were Sleeping
7. Guys and Dolls
6. Conspiracy Theory
5. An American in Paris
4. The Princess Bride
3. The Sons of Katie Elder
2. The Fugitive
1. The Man from Snowy River

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

About Raymond Chandler. He's my absolute favorite fiction writer, as I believe I've mentioned. But now I shall share two excerpts of his writing in an attempt to illustrate just why I adore his writing:
"I went out to the kitchen to make coffee--yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling, hot, ruthless, depraved. The lifeblood of tired men." --The Long Goodbye
Isn't that the most perfect description of good coffee? Not the kind of pretentious and overdressed coffee we get at places like Starbucks, but the kind my grandparents drank on the farm. That's my most-favorite bit of Chandler writing, and it's pretty indicative of his style. But here's a longer excerpt that I like a lot as well:
"I had been stalking the bluebottle fly for five minutes, waiting for him to sit
down. He didn't want to sit down. He just wanted to do wing-overs and sing the
prologue to Pagliacci. I had the fly swatter poised in midair and I was
all set. There was a patch of bright sunlight on the corner of the desk and I
knew that sooner or later that was where he was going to light. But when he did,
I didn't even see him at first. The buzzing stopped and there he was. And then
the phone rang.

"I reached for it inch by inch with a slow and patient
left hand. I lifted the phone slowly and spoke into it softly: 'Hold the line a
moment, please.'

"I laid the phone down gently on the brown blotter. He
was still there, shining and blue-green and full of sin. I took a deep breath
and swung. What was left of him sailed halfway across the room and dropped to
the carpet. I went over an dpicked him up by his good wing and dropped him into
the wastebasket.

"'Thanks for waiting,' I said into the phone."
--The Little Sister
I like Chandler for his oddly perfect word choices. He uses words in ways I wouldn't think of, but they come out making perfect sense. Like saying the fly was "full of sin"--he could have said the fly was taunting Marlowe or something more mundane and usual. But no, not Chandler. And with the coffee quotation, he uses words like "ruthless" and "depraved"--not words I'd think to use to describe coffee, yet they feel oddly perfect. Do you kind of see what I mean?

If I ever tried to write like that, it would come out corny and forced, fake and overdone. But for Raymond Chandler, it works to perfection.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

I love being barefoot. I've been trying to explain this to my mother-in-law, and I just remembered that when I did my Senior Liberal Arts Tutorial (this mini-thesis sort of thing I had to do to get my BA), I explained why I love being barefoot (because that's what I called the little book I wrote: Barefoot). And since I really don't think I could explain it better, here is my essay on the subject:


I love being barefoot. I hate wearing shoes. Shoes are too constricting; they isolate me from my surroundings, prevent me from touching the world and allowing it to touch me. But when I am barefoot, I am free to experience life in a satisfyingly sensory way. I delight in the different textures I encounter underfoot: smooth tile, gritty cement, silky grass, endless variations of carpet.

This enjoyment of the sensory side of life constantly spills over into my writing. My poetry is full of tangible details: the fizz of pink bubbles, the bitter taste of medicine, the physical pain sometimes caused by writing, the satiny smoothness of a beach, the comfort of hot chocolate. I also try to include as many sensory descriptions as possible in my fiction. One of the two pieces in here mentions the pain caused by someone clawing at the walls of a hole in the ground; the other is full of polished leather, black gloves, muddy shoes, and yellow telegrams. While I feel fairly proficient at writing sensation-loaded poetry, I am continually struggling with how descriptive to make my fiction. I usually want to add more and more details, but I know that if I include too many, readers—especially younger readers, often my intended audience—will be irritated, and perhaps even find the descriptions too much to wade through.

Bare feet can allow me to experience new textures and sensations, but they can also be dangerous. I’ve lost count of how many toes I have stubbed, how many toenails I have ripped off, how many scrapes and bruises I have garnered in the past twenty-two years. But all the pain I’ve experienced in the past (and all the pain I know I will encounter in the future) because I eschew shoes whenever possible—all this pain does not discourage me from being barefoot. In fact, I learn enough from the bruises and torn toenails to make them almost worth enduring. They teach me the value of staying aware of my surroundings, of not taking life for granted. When I’m barefoot, I need to pay attention as much as possible to where I’m going, because if I don’t, that’s when I smash my feet into whatever random object is in my path. So despite the hazards involved, I continue to run barefoot through my life, enthralled with the way the world feels under my feet.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I am enthralled by lists. I make them all the time. Lists of things to do on my night off. Lists of things to do before I die (like visit Alaska and The Alamo). Lists of my favorite books or movies or tv shows or actors or actresses or musicians...check it out, I've made a list of things I like to list! So here are two lists of mine.

My Top Ten Favorite Books of All Time

10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
9. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
8. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
7. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
6. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
5. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Suess
4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
1. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley


My Top Ten Favorite Movies of All Time

10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
9. Moulin Rouge!
8. While You Were Sleeping
7. Guys and Dolls
6. Conspiracy Theory
5. An American in Paris
4. The Princess Bride
3. The Sons of Katie Elder
2. The Fugitive
1. The Man from Snowy River

These are, of course, subject to change. But as of today, right now, that's how they are ;-)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Last night, I finished reading Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl for the first time. Naturally, I loved it! I'd read two of his books previously (Aku-Aku and Fatu-Hiva) and enjoyed them too, so loving Kon-Tiki came as no surprise. Not only has he had fascinating adventures to write about, but Heyerdahl has a fantastic way with words--I think he's my second-favorite writer in that respect, after Raymond Chandler. But whereas Chandler has a uniquely skewed and metaphorical style, Heyerdahl is conversational while being creative. He writes about the everyday things, like whether or not he got tired of drinking coconut milk. Yet he keeps things fresh, using precisely the right words and descriptions. Here's one of my favorite passages from Kon-Tiki to illustrate what I mean:

"Perhaps we did the shark an injustice, but we suspected it of evil intentions and rammed a harpoon into its skull." (Heyerdahl, Thor. Kon-Tiki. New York: Pocket Books, 1984. Pg. 120).

See what I mean? Sharks are something they encountered pretty regularly while floating about in the Pacific on a balsa raft, but he doesn't describe this encounter in a bland way. He could have just written, "A shark scared us, so we stabbed it with a harpoon." That is what happened, after all. But no, he explains amusingly that they "suspected it of evil intentions", as if it was a stranger lurking in a dark alley. Then he quits being prosey and cuts to the chase with "rammed a harpoon into its skull", which reads so quickly and violently that you can almost feel that those are your muscles tensing as you strike at this toothy villain with your pointy stick.

Oh, to write that well! Sometime I'll share some Raymond Chandler with you to show you what I mean when I call him 'uniquely skewed and metaphorical'...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I have a confession to make. To those of you who think of me as a mildly erudite, bookish, quiet and shy person, it may come as something of a shock. For those of you who know me as those things, but also as a person who grew up watching John Wayne and James Bond movies, it will not be a shock. And some of you are already aware of this thing I am about to reveal.

I am a Dwayne Johnson fan.

(Most people know Dwayne Johnson as "The Rock", the wrestler-turned-actor.)

Let me be very clear here: I am not a wrestling fan. Not in any way, shape, or form. But I am an action movie fan, and Dwayne Johnson makes action movies. Actually, he makes pretty good action movies. I wasn't terribly fond of his debut in The Mummy Returns, although I do like the movie. But when he stomped on screen, swinging a sword and bulging menacingly as The Scorpion King, I was amused. It's a formulaic movie, sure, but it's a fun romp in the desert nonetheless, and the action is really pretty great. I mean, can it get much better than muscly guys sword-fighting and spitting sly one-liners, while occasionally raising one eyebrow and smirking? Okay, it can. There can be guns involved too, which is what happened in The Rundown. How could I not like it? Not only is The Rock toting a firearm, but we've got quirky little Seann William Scott to deal with too!

What brings on this posting is the fact that Walking Tall came out on video and dvd this morning (but I didn't buy it). I saw it in theaters, and I liked it. The Rock has slimmed down now, he's not soooooo muscley. But he still has those shoulders--and I have ever been attracted to a good pair of shoulders. In fact, every guy I've ever liked in real life has had a great set of shoulders, my husband especially. Of course, no one quite comes close to the shoulders of David Boreanaz, which add so magnificently to his broodiness when he plays 'Angel'...but Dwayne Johnson has a nice set, and he's actually turning into a decent actor, much like Ahnold once did. Will we ever see The Rock in fuzzy polar bear slippers? Who knows...(see Batman and Robin if you don't get it)

Okay, I have now confessed. I am a violent bookworm.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Yesterday, I had an experience straight out of the Anne of Green Gables books. Seriously, when you read about it, you'll think it's waaay too weird to have happened in real life.

Okay, so every day that my Cowboy rides off on his bike to go to work at 5:40pm, I stand out on our cement slab porch and kiss him good-bye, and watch him ride off down the block and around the corner, until I can't see him anymore. Well, last night after he'd ridden off, I turned back to the house and discovered I was locked out. There I stood, wearing nothing but my pajamas. No shoes. I ran after Cowboy, but he was blocks ahead and didn't hear my pleas for help. So I walked 17 blocks through the center of town, barefoot and in my pjs, during rush-hour traffic.

I had two things going for me though: 1) I walk barefoot all the time anyway, so my feet are tough, and I didn't get blisters; 2) the pjs I was wearing are really just regular clothes, a pair of black shorts and a red t-shirt. So I'm not footsore, and I didn't look too rakish.

Anyway, I walked to my in-law's house, and the Rescue Ranger drove me to the factory where his wife, Banana, and my Cowboy work. I got the house key, and he drove me home. But boy! Was he ever surprised when he opened the door and I stood, barefoot and bra-less, on his front porch, in need of rescuing once again.

I have come to the conclusion that the citizens of our town need to upgrade their sidewalks and stop mowing their grass so short.

I'm sooooo gonna put this in a story some day.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Did I ever mention I have fanfiction published online? It's all about the 1960's tv show Combat!, which was a historical drama about WWII. Well, one story does cross over a character from Angel (and previously of Buffy the Vampire Slayer). You can access them at www.storynook.net --most of them are on the "Purple Hearts" site, which is an offshoot of Story Nook now. The ones on "Purple Hearts" are under the name White Queen. There's one on the Story Nook site too--"Bulletproof". That's the crossover one...Spike wanders into the Combat! world. Anyway, just thought I'd share the link.

I really like writing fanfic. It lets me try out new ideas without having to create new characters. That really cuts down a writers' workload. It's challenging too though--you have to really nail those characters or else your readers will dislike you for being uncanonical and stop reading your work. I've got a new bit of fanfic percolating in my brain right now. It's going to be kinda unconventional though, at least compared to the fanfic I usually write. I'm crossing a Combat! character into the Angel universe, and in the present day. But then, there are Star Trek/Combat! stories around, so I think I'll still have some readers...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Shrewd move, Tom Cruise. Most of your public, critics, and reviewers blamed you for your divorce from Nicole Kidman a few years ago. I even did, a little bit. I'm not sure why, but we collectively felt bad for Nic, and painted you as the bad guy. I still liked your movies; The Last Samurai makes me weep. But I'd lost my fondness for you--the sparkle you could bring to me had faded. Not that you've ever been one of my most-favorite actors...but you're in my top 25, probably. So what did you do? You accepted the fact, eventually, that we didn't really like seeing you as the good guy in your movies, because we all felt a little miffed with you, even now. And you decided to play a bad guy in the movie Collateral. I saw it a few weeks ago. Your plan worked--I loved you! And now, I'm not mad at you anymore. Neither is anyone else, it seems. If I had a vote in the Academy, I'd vote for you for best actor for that movie. Unless you were up against Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson or Johnny Depp, of course.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

If you're wondering who Archie Goodwin is, and why I named my Betta after him, allow me to explain. He's the narrator of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. I love these mysteries. Not only are the books fabulous, but they've been made into a delightful series on A&E, starring Timothy Hutton as Archie. I love the series, because not only do they nail their interpretations of the characters, but the costumes and props are fantabulous! They're sorta 40's/50's, with lots of vibrant colors and flashy suits with awesome hats, for both the men and the women. Mmmm.

Anyway, my Betta is really flashy, sort of an aquamarine blue with major fins that have red tips. And the colors reminded me of the colors from the tv versions of Nero Wolfe mysteries.

Now that I've explained all this, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotations from a Nero Wolfe book: "Archie doesn't like him, and I have learned that it is always quite possible that anyone he doesn't like may be a murderer." -Nero Wolfe in And Be a Villian by Rex Stout.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ugh. Shamed by my brother-in-law, The Housekarl, I decided to start blogging again. He has a lovely blog (www.livejournal.com/users/noumignon/) and it inspired to pick mine up again. And just as this page loaded, my husband announced that supper is ready. So here I am, thwarted once more. Oh well, I'll just write again tonight.

My Betta, James Bond, died. I have another one though, named Archie Goodwin. He's not a replacement for James, because I got him about 2 weeks after I got James, and James lasted over a month. Archie lives in the roots of a Deffenbachia plant (however you spell that)...

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I have a betta named James Bond. I got him one week ago today, and he's still alive, so I figure that's a pretty encouraging sign. He's mostly a vibrant blue, except for a red streak along his belly that fades into a little purple on the sides, then on up to the blue. He lives in a giant glass that looks like a cross between a martini glass and a champagne glass, hence his name ;-) I even put green glass rocks on the bottom to look like olives (which was the Chameleon's idea).

My Cowboy is doing a crossword puzzle and wants me to join him, so I'll end this and do so.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

I'm a terrible blogger. I write faithfully for a few days, then neglect it for a month. Bad old puddy tat.

I don't want to go to work tonight. Not that that's anything new. I'm getting pretty tired of my job. I probably wouldn't be if I didn't know that I might not be there much longer. But the tantalizing prospect of not having to do that job for more than a few more months is just making me want to quit now. See, at the end of the month, we'll find out if my Cowboy got into the Foreign Service or not. Or at least whether or not he passed the first test. So things could be changing a lot soon.

AND I'm going home to NC on the 28th for a quick vacation. Cowboy's coming with, of course. And I just wanna go now!

I just found out how to change the time on this thing. From now on, my post times will be accurate!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Ugh. I am in the throes of what Stephen Maturin (of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels) would call the "blue devils". I'm melancholy. I'm irritated with the world. I'm irritated with myself. And I'm not entirely sure why. I'm partially sure why, but I'm not admitting those reasons to myself. Instead I'm eating melted Hershey's chocolate and gazing mournfully out the window at the yet-more rain.

See, I'm possibly having a piece published in a nationally-distributed magazine. But this isn't bringing me all the joy and fulfillment I thought it might. Instead of affirming my sometimes tenuous belief that I'm a better-than-passable writer, it's stomping me down into the doldrums of maybe-I-suck-dom, for various reasons I don't care to elaborate at the moment.

Also, I think PMS might have something to do with this. More chocolate, please! And if there's a Johnny Depp in sight, bring him over too.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I hate writer's block. It's way worse than writer's cramp. Writer's cramp I can fix by just massaging my hand and wrist (or my back if I'm hunched over the keyboard). But it's really hard to massage my imagination. I can feed it, but I'm not sure I can massage it.

So yeah, I'm working on my novel, which I have neglected for simply weeks, and I'm stuck. I just deleted about 2 pages of stuff because I decided I didn't like where it was going, but now I don't know where I want it to go instead. And I'm irritated by my main character. I just don't like her very well. If she was a real person, I don't think I'd hang out with her. And that's okay, because she's supposed to start out kinda off-putting, but then get nicer and more likeable as the novel progresses. But I haven't gotten to where I can like her yet. I think she's stupid.

So, I'm stuck in the novel, disliking my main character...time to blog. Maybe it will loosen up the imagination blockage. Or maybe I should quit and go bake those apple pies I've been planning. I kinda thought my sister-in-law, The Chameleon, would be here by now and might want to help me peel alllllllllll those apples, but so far she's a no-show. Probably still asleep.

Hmmmm. Maybe I'll go check out MB's blog and see what she's posted lately...

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Well, after an absence of...I don't want to think how long it's been since I blogged. I actually didn't think this thing would still be around. But my friend MB set up her own online journal recently (http://maribel.easyjournal.com), and suddenly I've gotten the urge to resume blogging.

I have three sad things to say.

My darling dog Westley is dead.
They canceled Angel.
Creed has disbanded.

It has been kind of a depressing year, now and then. Other than the above 3 horrid occurances, life has been good though. We're in WI now, not MN. We live near my Cowboy's family, so that's kinda cool, we get to hang with them a lot. Good thing we all get along fairly well, eh?

I have a lot more to say, and I hope I'll get around to saying it. Oh, I named my new camera 'Marlowe' after Raymond Chandler's gumshoe Philip Marlowe. That's really old news, but it fits with the last post I left oh so long ago...