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 ( 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'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 ;-)