Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Over the Wall

I don't have any big insight on how it feels to have finished this book, except that I am divided strongly between the desire to kick back and chillax for a while and the desire to get going on another project. KUFC is meant to be the first book in a series, and in theory I could get to plotting the next one. In theory. I could also revisit the Greenland book, which has a premise I really believe in and an execution that kinda reeks, and see if rewriting it from scratch is going to be as nightmarish as it seems from this vantage point. Or I could go back to my idea about Marilyn Monroe, a book which exists only in research and a general plan at this time, and try to outline it. Or I could write any of a handful of short stories or essays I have ideas for. And I have this completely insane idea for a Wikipedia/Choose Your Own Adventure book that could use some development, although I feel like I need to wait until I'm a much better writer to do that one.

Or I could just do nothing. Yesterday, when I was finished with money-work, I watched Erin Brockovich and Prometheus, neither of which I'd seen. [Thumbs medium-up on the first (enjoyable, engaging, but no great timeless art), thumbs down + raspberry on the second. Prometheus earned ire of a rare sort from a few of my friends when it came out, and I was curious about what made people so mad. I'm not sure it's worth getting pissed off about, except that it looked a hell of a lot better in its first ten minutes or so (once we get into space, I mean) than it delivered upon in the following two hours. I thought it was more of the same frustrating go-nowhere toss-money-at-it bullshit from Ridley Scott that we've been seeing for decades now, but this is not a popular opinion.] It was nice not to have any other demands on my time, to be able to spend four hours with movies without guilt. I kind of want to roll around in that for a while, rather than getting my saddle back on right away. Yes, I reversed that on purpose. 

I haven't been reading much in the past couple of weeks. Now that I have the time again, all I seem to want to do is crossword puzzles. Oh, well. That'll cycle out too, as my interests always do. 

In case you missed it on Facebook, this article on Slate about novelist Amanda McKittrick Ros is...unmissable. She is potentially the worst novelist of all time, and her existence and reactions to criticism of her work brings up a number of questions for me about the role of confidence vs. the role of self-doubt when  making art. Despite how bad I feel laughing at someone who took herself so very seriously (people may be laughing at me, and my presumption at being a novelist, after all), I can't help it. Her syntax is hysterical. She reminds me precisely of Alpha, the Doberman from Pixar's Up. "You too shall have much rewardings from Master for the toil factor you wage." Her poetry, as quoted on her Wikipedia page, is evidently just as amusing:
Holy Moses! Take a look!
Flesh decayed in every nook!
Some rare bits of brain lie here,
Mortal loads of beef and beer.
I downloaded one of her books from Gutenberg and I look forward to tackling it as soon as the crosswords get old.

I couldn't sleep on Sunday night after finishing the book, and one of the things I did in my insomnia was make an iTunes playlist of all the music that either fit the mood of the book, is specifically mentioned in the book, or I played on repeat while writing the book. I kind of love the mix and wish I could send it out as a supplement along with the draft if/when I send it to friends. This is one of those mood songs. A little slow jazz for Wednesday. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Only Good News Can Cool My Desire

Here's a little Boss for you. Cracked recently taught me that this song was banned by the BBC and Clear Channel due to the conflict in Iraq and after 9/11, respectively. Neither I nor Cracked understands what this personal, crazy sexy song has to do with world conflict.

I post it here because, you see, I'm on fire. I got an acceptance on Friday, for an anthology related to women and body image. Although I'm really excited, because this project is such a wonderful, necessary idea, I don't want to yell and scream too much about it. I've known anthologies not to pan out; my work was accepted on spec, on a paragraph rather than the full piece; and I'm to be paired with an artist (in theory), which I freely admit might make it all go wrong (fault mine). If it does pan out, I will be thrilled and honored to be a part of the project.

But that's not the only reason for the burnination. I finished the first draft of KUFC. Finished it. Done. Finito.

I wrote the last chapter on Friday, and then on Saturday I rewrote the prologue completely. I originally wrote that prologue last summer, and I made it all fancy and beautiful, with embroidered prose. But the rest of the book didn't get written like that, and some other aspects of the book changed along the way from what I'd written in the prologue, and two test readers didn't like it anyway, so I decided to redo it altogether once the whole draft was done. On a nice walk on Saturday, Matt compared the function of my prologue to a tutorial mission in a video game, which is an ideal analog. And that means I might have to rewrite it again and again, a bunch of different ways, to communicate everything I need to communicate so you're not jumping into the game without a clue about the mechanics.

But the point is, I'm done with the draft. I spent nearly all my waking hours on Sunday, from 10 AM to 9 PM, polishing it. I still have much more to do (as they say, writing is rewriting, much as I wish it weren't so), but there. It hovers at 92,500 words. I am dying for someone else to read it, because I am sofa king excited about Berra Thorntree and her death-defying adventures that I want to introduce her to other people, too. Of course it's not ready to go out yet, because Matt needs to tell me about the things I totally forgot to notice and it needs to sit for a while so my self-indulgence can be recognizable. But SOON. When I was done with the first read on Sunday night, though, I posted a remark to that effect on Facebook, and a bunch of people jumped in to like it and tell me they wanted to read it, which made me all warm and fuzzy inside.

Matt claims to be excited to be the first other person to meet Berra, but I've been telling him repeatedly how much I look forward to him reading the thing for many weeks, so if I were him, I'd pretty much be playing along by now.

Anyway! Acceptance! Completion of fourth-or-potentially-fifth novel! BIG YAY!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Or Even Glynis or Ashok

For a while now I've been collecting a list of names I want to use in fiction someday. The name is always one of the hardest parts for me in putting a new character in a scene or a story or a book. Sometimes I'll sit there with the blinking cursor for minutes on end, bursting to write the scene, blank for a decent name. Sometimes I'll get stuck altogether and have to hunt down the little book of baby names I bought when I was living in England for this very purpose. But lately I've just been collecting names I like and copying them in a .txt I save on my computer desktop.

Every time I add to my names list, I'm amazed at all the ones I've added before. They all seem so unusual and weird, yet perfectly plausible in isolation. Like Kieran. Not an unrecognizable name, but when you set it in a list next to Charmaine and Augusta and Felix, it starts to seem like no one in my books will ever be named Mike or Julie. My favorite so far is Corisande. (Say it out loud, "Corisande." Isn't it wonderful?) Picked that one up from a Georgette Heyer novel and I don't know if I'll ever even use it, it's so delightful. I'll have to find precisely the right lady on whom to bestow it.

On a similar topic, I also had cause to look up an old-timey synonym for "bitch" the other day. When I ran through a mental list of old-fashioned insults for women, like roundheels, slattern, etc., I realized they were all synonyms for "slut", rather than actually "bitch". Insulting a woman in an old-timey way inevitably entails casting aspersions on her sexual behavior. Which is depressing, because women do lots of bad things that don't relate to sleeping around (which is debatably not even such a bad thing to do). More words like ruffian and jackanapes and blackguard are needed for women, if you ask me. A wider variety of insults for period writers to choose from.

In any event, my slang dictionary didn't list any synonyms for "bitch" and my Googling didn't help much, so for the time being I'm stuck with that word. It was certainly in use during the year I've set this book, but I'd've preferred something more expressive and less common.

Random lines from yesterday's work:
"Carys," I said, "do you know every important person in town?"
"Yes," she deadpanned. "And all the favors I owe them seem to go straight to your benefit." 
In other news, tonight there will be Manos, the Hands of Fate Rifftrax in the movie theater. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. Next week is Plan 9 from Outer Space, but I saw that one a couple of years ago and I'll live without seeing it again. You should go, though. "Future events such as these will affect you in the future, for that is where you and I will spend the rest of our lives." A Jonathan Coulton performance is part of the package. Details here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meet You All the Way (??)

Yesterday morning, I revised the first 15,000 words or so of KUFC. Since I'm not finished with the full draft yet, this might have been premature of me. But in the course of writing the book, some things about the world have changed, so I wanted to get a jump on the more mechanical revisions. Plus, I finally found a website with an architectural glossary, so I could use words like "lintel" instead of saying "the horizontal beam over the top of the door."

It took me until nearly lunch to edit, and then after lunch I sat in the red chair and wrote. I had an hour or so's worth of false starts, and I took several long breaks, but I didn't quit for good until about 11:30, at which point I had finished both the action-y part of the climax and the confrontation-y part of the climax. So all I have left to do now is denoue. Wrap up all my loose ends. Possibly threaten my character's life one more time. And then the [first draft of the] book will be done.

It was hard as fuck to write yesterday's work. Not just because what was happening was impactful and upsetting for these characters, but because it was thrilling. My heart was pounding and I had adrenalin in my stomach. My mood tends to echo what I write when I'm writing it: if a character gets snide or angry, that's what goes on my face and in my mind. If I'm writing a sex scene...well. And this was an action scene, so I got excited, with my heart in my throat. (Silly, perhaps, but I hope it means the writing's more effective.) Because of this it was hard to sit down and concentrate instead of pacing out all that energy. But I did. And then, when I was finished, I slept like the dead.

Today I have pages and pages to type. I'm certain I'll be over 80,000 words when I finish typing yesterday's work, which means to you and me that the book will be book-length in its final draft. Which is always a relief.

That's all for now. I have carpal tunnel syndrome to contract. This cover of "Rosanna" is greater than the sum of its parts. Enjoy.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Regarding the Black Hole Principle

Once, when I was in high school, I was talking over books with my boyfriend at the time, and he introduced an idea that I've found useful ever since. His name, like my husband's, is Matt, which is a whole other story, but his nickname is/was Westy. One of my favorite books during my teenage years was Brave New World (which, by the way, is a whole different book if you're a teenager than if you're an adult). When I brought it up, Westy said oh, yeah, that one has a really fast black hole.

What? I asked.

The black hole is the page when you don't want to stop reading, he explained. Not the page where you get interested, or the page where you decide to read the whole book. The page where the book becomes the main thing you're thinking about when you're doing other stuff and want to be reading instead. The point where the book sucks you in.

Some books never have a black hole page at all, and for some books, the black hole is on page one. It's a super-subjective thing, because one person's hook is another person's sharp shiny death. But all of the spine-prickling terrific books I've read have had this quality, a point where I'm like, okay, you got me, I'll follow you anywhere.

I'm reminded of this concept all the damn time. In part because I read a lot, and I know a black hole when I see one, and in part because I'm a writer and want to know how to be sure I've written a black hole myself. I think about it a lot. I wonder how it applies to short stories. I wonder how some books (not many, thank goodness) manage to reverse polarity and make you drift right back out after the black hole snagged you a couple hundred pages earlier.

Usually when I start reading something, my brain's clicking away with half a dozen other functions, keeping track of time and blood sugar level and surroundings, interpreting what the writer's up to both in front of and behind the curtain, wondering how long it took the writer to write this and get published, how many trunk manuscripts he'd gathered before he wrote this, etc etc. Sometimes, though, those things drop away in whispers, one by one, and I'm totally absorbed in nothing else but what's on the page. This is a magic moment, getting lost in a book, and I mourn for people who "don't like to read", because nothing compares to it. Nothing.

Recently I started reading Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, and I had one of the clearest black-hole moments I've had in years. The prologue (? first chapter? it's numbered zero) is so beautifully written, such a perfect, perfect hook, that I want to photocopy it and send it to half the people I know with "ISN'T THIS AWESOME???" written in the margin. It was an absorbing few pages, and when I was finished I wanted to e-mail the writer all the clapping gifs I knew of.

Well done, sir. 

Citizen Cane Clapping GIF
As good as an opera with Susan Alexander. 

Toy Story 3 Ken Doll Clapping GIF
My kicky scarf grudgingly accepts that you write well. 

Another one I remember from recent years is the first chapter of The Passage, by Justin Cronin. I haven't read the entirety of that book, just the first couple of chapters and then skimmed some of the rest. I believe it might be one of those sad reversed-polarity books, because although the first chapter hooked me like a trout, the rest of it seemed too Crichton-y in structure for my taste. Good in its individual scenes, but then you have to reboot everything to switch back to the other cast of characters.

And then there was Pastoralia, the only book I've ever loved so much I was reading it at stoplights.

Anybody want to share their favorite black holes with the class?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Postscript: Concerning Vaas Cheesecake

Two people said they wanted to hear me expound about something I brought up in the last post after all, so, here it is.

This is Vaas Montenegro.

And to Think, All This from Jesus vs. Santa

And now I'm over 60,000 words. This is downright surreal.

There's so much I want to tell you about this book. So many details I want to share giddily with Matt while I'm writing. So many aspects which I feel are full of win, from character development to cool vocabulary I've invented. But I know it's not at all the thing to do, both because I'll give it away (on an individual level) and because I'll be opening myself up to thievery (on the wider blog-on-internet level). So I'm having to spin in my own little circle of happiness about what I'm writing instead of spreading the love.

This would all be a lot easier if I wasn't on such a flaming roll, writing thousands of words every day. All I want to think about is the world I've built, and all I want to do is create more inside of it.

Partly for this reason, I'm kind of dry for what to write about here. I thought of writing about this picture, which appeared on Kotaku the other day and spun up all kinds of interesting commentary in my head about gender and pinup art and what women are attracted to. But I didn't think anyone would be interested, so I chucked that idea. I thought of discussing my various writing plans in the near future, but they're all twisted up with my personal life and that was too far in the other direction, away from commentary and toward navel-gazing.

Oh! I know. Over the past few months, I watched the entire berth of South Park available on Netflix. I'd seen most of season one, some of season two, all of season nine (for some reason), and scattered episodes from all the others (the essentials, like the Scientology episode and the Scott Tenorman episode). In all, there were 221 23-minute shows available on instant watch and I'd probably seen a third of them. I loved the series, cheerleaded for it, but still hadn't seen the majority of it. I finished last week, with the last episode of season 15, and even I am genuinely astonished at exactly how good South Park can be. It's subversive to a level that little else in our culture is, it's intelligent to a degree that funny shows virtually never are, and the only adjective I can think of that sums it all up is necessary. America badly needs every effort possible to bring us down a few pegs, whether out of our own self-obsession or out of our strict prudishness about vulgarity and absurdity, and that's possibly South Park's greatest purpose.

One of the complaints I read over and over as I looked up context for the individual shows was that the series picked low-hanging fruit to skewer. This is not an unfair criticism, but the show also bothers to make it well worth your while to watch it skewer the topic in its own especial way. More than just "ha ha, Mormons are so funny," the approach is "let's make a musical about the real story of Mormonism, and the laughs will take care of themselves."

That's the other thing that frankly amazed me. When it wasn't being blatantly absurd (the U.S. military is probably not trying to open a Stargate into Imaginationland), South Park was always factually accurate. The retelling of Great Expectations, the basis of Scientology, various laws of the United States, certain history lessons: the creators unfailingly did their research, and everything was bang-on correct. That makes me respect them even more. A lot of creative types wouldn't bother, and I don't think anyone holds South Park to a particularly high standard of responsibility aside from its own creators.

Just as I was finishing up season 15, I read this article on Slate. If you're too lazy to read it, it lays out reasons why marathoning a TV show is a bad idea. I can't remember when I agreed less with every one of the basic foundations of an article (unless it was just nonsense, like this bullshit). Episodes have their own integrity? It's better to consider TV characters as pals who hang around in our living rooms once a week than actors whose performances we can watch at our leisure? And recaps and commentary are worth reading?? Dude must have been smoking some of the good stuff.

Matt thinks I should write a full-on magazine essay about why marathoning TV is so awesome and worthwhile, so I'm not going to blow my wad about it here. But after absorbing roughly 60 hours of South Park in the last couple of months, I'm here to tell you: in great ravenous gulps is totally the way to watch a series.

Now go watch South Park for yourself. I have writing to do.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

92 Reasons I Won't Recommend This Book

Is this song cheesy or comforting to the heart? I love it, but the internet has said that it sounds like a song from the credits of a third-rate 80s movie.

I think I've written 10,000 words on KUFC this week. Not shabby. I would have written more if I could stop fiddling with the last two scenes that I typed up (dammit). I keep remembering things like "if she was eating grapes she'd have to spit out the seeds, no seedless grapes in 1940" and "wait, I have to point out that there were grapes on the coffee table in the first place" and "she forgot to put her coat back on before she went outside" and such. It's stupid little stuff, consistencies and anachronisms, but it's the kind of stuff I'm afraid I'll forget entirely if I don't put it in (which simultaneously feels too irrelevant to take notes about).

Also, the book is becoming much queerer than I intended it to be. My MC is bisexual, which was part of the plan all along, but it's turning out that there are more homosexual scenes/couples in the book than hetero ones. I think this is hunky-dory, but since this just happened, I'm slightly worried that I'll scare off publishers the same way Soderbergh scared off distributors. (Best comment I heard on that nonsense: "Now I'm just gay is this thing?") Ah well. Now is not the time to worry about that. And anyway genre fiction needs more healthy queerness and fewer spider-queens with eight boobs.

Speaking of scary monsters, I am reading this book:

And I think it will be the last advice book about the publishing industry that I read, unless I am recommended one after a serious, thoughtful conversation. I've read ten or so, all told, and a plethora of publishing advice on the internet. They always have the same effect. They make me insecure and arrogant in equal measures (i.e. "oh God, I'm not doing that, I'm not thinking about that, I'm a horrible writer, I'm dooooomed" intertwined with "I totally knew that, I'm brilliant, I'm way better than the herd, I'm gonna be a millionaire"), sometimes in the course of a single sentence. They get me spun up and competitive about who could be in the slush pile with me, and force me to obsess over why the process has to be so fraught and lottery-like. They make me angry because they contradict each other and themselves, sometimes in two neighboring paragraphs, as this one did. And because they codify everything about the process of publishing into secret handshakes that differ from book to book, indicating that the codification is thoroughly variable and meaningless.

To sum up: they keep me from doing good work. They take my focus off the book and onto myself and my ego, whether inflated or punctured. They advise less than they obfuscate. So I'm finished. Me and my perfectionism would rather do everything the exactly-right way to increase my chances of acceptance, but if I've learned anything at all from these fussy, confounding books, it's that the only part of the process that doesn't vary from house to house and agent to agent is do good work. (And tell the truth, but I've got that one down.) So fuck it. I'm just gonna do my best, and make the book part of that best, rather than merely my forward foot.

I note that this book, 78 Reasons etc., is apparently out of print. I'm not surprised, because the author's advice on self-publishing is no longer correct in the slightest and he doesn't mention e-books once. (It's from 2005.) However, its advice is otherwise no different than most of the other books I've read about writing and publishing. It's no outlier on the bad end. It's just as irritating and distracting as all the rest.

FWIW, I liked Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - it supplied practical, applicable advice to someone who abhors revision - and I liked The Fire in Fiction, although I suspect the latter was good because Maass is just a good writer. But, you know, those are craft books, not publishing books. Both invoked the carrot of "you want to be published, don't you?", but neither was specifically about how to get into print.

Okay. Rant over.

I'm trying very hard to do less Facebook lately, and it is a serious challenge. It's difficult on a minute-by-minute basis. And it makes me feel amazingly isolated. But I can also feel my life cracking open to let other things in: old habits, new uses for time. So...yay?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Mental Sweat

I can't believe I'm over 40,000 words.

I can't fucking believe that.

I look at the word count - 41,345, 1,934 of which are definitely getting chucked and rewritten, but still - and I look at the page count - 71 pages, single-spaced (I don't double-space until it's time to edit, I don't know why, but it's how I roll) - and I just...I just don't believe it. Surely it's an error. Surely I haven't cracked 30K yet. But it isn't.

I told Matt it was because the work hadn't been difficult, and then immediately took it back: of course it's been difficult. It's been labor, hard work, I've put many hours into it and sweated and struggled and plotted and rewritten and tried again. But it hasn't been arduous. That's not quite correct, either, because it has been a great deal of effort, but it's the closest synonym I can think of. I guess what I mean is: I breezed past 40K without a thought, instead of feeling like I accomplished something when I looked at the left corner of my Word document and saw that number there.

Because there's been so much confidence. So much for me to believe in about this project, so much surety that every word I put down is another word on a book that's going to kick as much ass as my main character does. It's like when you sit down to do homework ( know, some adult kind of work), and you are definitely putting mental sweat into every minute, and then you look up and whoa, it's two hours later. You certainly worked hard, but the work and the time passed much quicker than you thought.

So now I'm at 41,345 words. And on Saturday I wrote another, oh, 4,000? longhand in my notebook. Funny story about that notebook. I'll get to it in a moment. That 4,000 was the second emotional peak in the book, when my MC learns that she's been rather a fool, and she has to draw on her reserves of strength and move forward with unfortunately less dignity. I was so inside the story that I had adrenalin butterflies in my stomach about what I was going to write, because I knew exactly what was going to happen and she didn't. This isn't the weirdest emotional reaction I've had when writing, but it's definitely one of the strongest. I had to drink an overly potent tequila screwdriver to calm down enough to write the damn thing.

I looked up once, and it was 8:00; I looked up again, and it was 10:15.


So, remember how I said I bought a Moleskine? By the end of last week, it was half full. The damn thing cost me $30 and I was definitely going to use it up long before I finished writing this book. Matt offered me several helpful suggestions for writing in such a way that I didn't Moleskine us out of house and home, and I couldn't accept any of them because I am a picky jerk. Instead I lolled about on the couch bemoaning how rapidly I'd used up half the Moleskine. He asked me what it was that bothered me so much about that, and I said it was just one of those moments that showed me how lifehacking my brain just doesn't work on me. "It's one of these times where I look at myself," I said, "and think, oh Kat, you tried to be smarter than yourself, and instead you showed that you were stupider than yourself."

On Saturday, after going to an extremely long opera (yes, yes, one thing at a time), I drove to the Barnes & Noble in Calabasas, because the Barnes & Noble twenty minutes away was just too convenient and now it's been closed and I have to go to the one that's thirty-five minutes away. I hate you, corporate America. I returned a couple of books and bought a two-pack of the flexible notebooks that Moleskine makes, full-sized but with soft covers instead of hard moleskiney ones and with many fewer pages. They're not as posh as the other but they were much cheaper, and they'll satisfy my need for paper and pen without making me feel guilty when I inevitably use them up (in a couple of weeks? That's what it's looking like, which means I'll have to go all the way the fuck back to Calabasas again).


So, the long opera. It was Les Troyens, it was five and a half hours long, it was unbelievable, and I am basically in mourning that I'll probably never see another staging of it. Most of the operas I've seen this season have become my new favorite opera, and with Troyens I'm tempted to protest "but I really mean it this time!" It was bigger than I thought it could be, more moving and beautiful than you'd believe if I told you, with more unique and fascinating music than I imagined. It rang through my every cell. But I would be a fool to recommend a five-and-a-half-hour opera to anyone, so I won't. Still. It was such an experience. The kind where know you'll never have quite another like it.

The very coolest thing about the opera was the tenor lead, Bryan Hymel, who had a simply colossal voice. Tenors don't usually do much for me, but he speared me to my seat. One of the other cool things about it, though, was this little Asian guy who had a supporting role. I don't know how tall he actually is, but he was shorter than most of the women on stage. He came in as a servant to the queen, and when he opened up his mouth to sing I got the shock of the week. I don't know what I expected from his voice, but not this:

That's him in Lucia di Lammermoor, but you get the idea. Gorgeous rich baritone, itty-bitty living space. I mean no disrespect, it was just kind of fun and surprising to have my expectations turned upside down like that.

And now that you've had your opera PSA for the week, I'm off. Heed me: don't get used to writing in fancy pretty notebooks. Stick with notebook paper (or the computer you already paid for) and you'll be a happy writer.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

We Both Have Truths - Are Mine the Same as Yours?

Finally, FINALLY, I finished 2666 this week. Although I enjoyed the fifth and final section far more than the fourth and longest section, what had come before had wearied me so much that I was really pushing to get through it, force-feeding my eyes with the content of each page, rather than enjoying the journey, which is a shame. Also, I had hoped the storylines of the book would all tie up, because the writer so obviously knew what he was doing. They did not. Very little, close to nothing, was clearer at the close than it had been when I started the damn thing. I admire this book, but can't recommend it. Pieces of it took my breath away, and I enthusiastically enjoyed its unpredictability in the first few hundred pages, but I wouldn't wish on anyone such frustration as I ultimately felt.

I do agree pretty much 100% with this review. Spoilers there, and a real shock: the crimes, the murders of hundreds of women described in sickening, wearying detail, are real.

On New Year's Eve I read The Lifespan of a Fact, which engaged and interested me more than pretty much anything I've read in print (i.e. anything not longform journalism on the internet) since The Chronology of Water. I previously wrote about its central problem, and about it, here. I know I have friends reading this who are as interested as I am in nonfiction vs. fact and the awkward place of "the truth" in both essays and reality. Buy. This. Book. Don't miss it. Don't let the formatting or the overpricedness deter you. Get it and read it, and maybe read it again.

My other suggestion (presuming that you take the first one) is that you read a little tidbit about John D'Agata and his purpose as a writer before you read the book, or you may end up thinking he's just a complete dickface right up to the point where the book's 75% over. For instance, that he has an MFA in poetry lent some meaning to his claims about the rhythm of this or that phrase.

If you hate the fact-checker instead for his obscene attention to detail, well, let's dialogue about that. Soul of nitpicking that I am, I adored him.

Right now I'm reading The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I'm having a bit of a where-have-you-been-all-my-life reaction to her. Such fascinating, subtle, unique writing. Like Poe with sharper knives.

A break for music. I'm having an intense romance with electropop and I can't stop listening to this one:

I also recently read two longform articles I wanted to draw some attention to. First is this one, a Wired article (which I read in the actual physical magazine!) about John McAfee, the guy who invented the eponymous software and is now being sought for murder in Belize. In the reading it reminded me of one of the most interesting longform articles I've ever read, this one, about a guy who crashed a $1.3 million Ferrari after many bizarre only-in-America (and-possibly-Dubai-at-this-point) adventures. If you like long interesting profiles, the one about McAfee is as much a no-miss as the one about Eriksson.

I also read this article, which I found unfocused and snooty and indulgent and confusing. What am I missing about it? Maybe just that it's Harper's? I thought it had some kind of essential, thundering, Rome-too-shall-fall point to make but completely missed the mark in making it. But perhaps I'm not smart enough or old enough to see it.

On to the writing: I revised the opera story yesterday thanks to some strong feedback and sent it out to a market. I also typed the chapter of KUFC that I'd written in my notebook back in the halcyon days of 2012 and fretted briefly about chapter divisions not working out especially well in the last 5,000 words or so. Then I wrote another few pages before bed, a scene that I'm not sure I'm actually going to use, and laid in bed for a few minutes wanting very much to go back into the living room and turn on the light and write for another three hours. And then I fell asleep. There are lots of reasons why I don't stay up late and write (something I am always wanting to do but never do), all of them good, but I wish I had the stones to push them all aside and do it.

Yesterday I learned that Victrolas don't have horns; those are gramophones. Victrolas are big cabinets. I think I'm going to have to learn some things about Zeppelins in order to keep writing. I love learning things, but annoyingly, my projects seem to set me in search of obscure shit instead of easy-to-find shit. It was a pleasure to have to learn a bit about the Civil War last year, because it was so much easier than learning about the history of goddamn Greenland.

On Saturday I go to the opera for Les Troyens. Which is five hours and forty-five minutes long. I'm bringing a sandwich.

Finally, a PSA. On this blog I tried to keep to every-other-day posts in 2012, and I've determined that that's too often. Not for me, but for you. When I space out the posts, I get more comments, which indicates to me that people are reading with more interest. So maybe it'll be every three days, or twice a week, or something. Not as often as before. Just so you know.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolute, 2012 Edition

Every year, I post last year's New Year's resolutions with a short analysis of how well I think I succeeded at them, and then I post this year's. So, here are last year's (in greater detail here): 

1. Slim down in terms of possessions. I had no idea in the world how necessary this resolution would turn out to be, since I didn't know in January that I would be moving from a two-bedroom house in Maryland to a one-bedroom apartment in California. However, I'm still only calling this a partial success, because while I got rid of a lot of stuff, I didn't do it especially thoughtfully, nor would I have gotten rid of so much without the cattle prod in my back. Due to necessity instead of due to self-improvement = a cheat.

2. With my newfound financial circumspection, toss more money into my debts. Fail. Big fail. For various reasons. I'm only sort of blaming myself for this one; I got surprised a few times this year in terms of money and no disasters resulted from failing.

3. In terms of writing, put into practice all the things that have worked for me in 2011 (Keep Blogging, Just Do It, and Set Deadlines). I found varying degrees of success with the three parts of this goal. I wrote exponentially more this year than I did in 2011, and the quality of the writing grew enormously, so I call that a success. But I flunked at setting a deadline at least once and Just Do It didn't always go perfectly. Not that I expect it to always go perfectly.

4. Be fearless. Partial success. Greatest success in this area was found via clothes and accessories, even though that sounds shallow and lame. There were proud times when I went fearlessly into whatever I was supposed to do, and there were times when I cowered and hung back and needed Matt's help to convince me to come out of the cave.

5. Detach. Um. A wash? I kept detachment in mind fairly often when I found myself hanging on too hard or getting too invested in something, but I often failed actually to detach. If the goal of New Year's resolutions, regardless of success or failure, is to be more thoughtful and aware of the things you make resolutions about (and I tend to think it is), then I think this was potentially a success.

And now, all the things I want to be and feel and do in 2013:

1. Buy less. This sounds ordinary, but it's not. This will be hard and worthwhile and necessary.

2. Be reticent. One of the great lessons my husband has taught me (by example) about life is that you don't have to say everything you think. Not even when a conversation is going on around you and contributing to it seems to be the thing to do. Not even when people ask you direct questions. You have the choice to stand there and say nothing, for whatever reason you choose. The same is true on Facebook, on people's blogs, in phone conversations. I can choose to think my own thoughts and not release them, and I lose nothing. I've been learning this lesson gradually for four or so years now, but this is the year I'm ready to think of it every time I'm interacting with people. Some terrific examples of how it benefited me to stay quiet in 2012 are helping me toward this goal.

3. Learn to apologize less. The number of applications of this resolution is much larger than I have space for here. I don't mean the kind of apology where you bumped into somebody and made them drop their stuff (you should always apologize for that), I mean the kind of apology where I take something seriously and am vaguely aware that other people don't and I feel the need to be ashamed that I'm a nerd or a devotee. It's stupid and self-harmful to be sorry about such things.

4. Keep reading. Keep watching movies. Keep going to operas. Keep writing notes to loved ones. Keep donating to Kickstarters. Keep going on dates with Matt. Keep loving California. Keep living. Don't get dead.

5. When writing, live in beginner's mind. Beginner's mind is where you accept that you know nothing, and imagine yourself doing whatever you're doing for the first time, and hence live in a state of wonder. I am happy about all I've learned this year re: writing, but if I keep assuming that I know nothing and will know more tomorrow, I won't get caught in despair that I don't know enough, nor will I feel cocky and my work feel stale.

6. In friendship, roll with the punches better. Not everything can be as tightly controlled as my own reactions, and it's easy to forget this.

7. Finish KUFC and write another book. That's kind of a crazy goal, to write another book on top, but hey, I'm dreamin' big.

I think I'll stick with these seven. I was going to make a resolution about body acceptance, but eh.

Some of my very good friends have had record-breakingly bad 2012s, and I am hoping hard for them that 2013 is better. I've had a wonderful year, but I'm glad to see it go, to make room for the new. Whoever you are, reading this, you have twelve months in front of you - what are you going to make from them?