Saturday, February 26, 2005

Can't do it

Thanks, Jean, for the insight. I've wrestled with this decision for a lot of hours, and I just can't bring myself to apply.

The single sentence in the announcement that stands in my way is: "1. Adherent to the Stone-Campbell tradition (Church of Christ/Christian Church)". While I enthusiastically support the Stone-Campbell philosophy of inclusiveness and focusing on common values, I just do not believe that the Bible is the absolute, final Word of God. I have studied this issue for many years, and I see far too much of the hand of Man and far too little of the Hand of God in the beliefs and practices of the Christian religion. I will not prostitute my beliefs and standards for the sake of a job. I hate it when my scruples interfere with my life. :)

The Mountains Within Me

That's the title of a book that Zell Miller wrote many years ago. Though I have come to despise Zig-Zag Zell for his total lack of principle, he did get the title right. I was born in the mountains and lived there until I was 4. Though I was just a small child when we left, the mountains have stayed in me through my life. They call to me. It's like there's a giant rubber band constantly pulling me back. Though I probably will never be able to go back "home" permanently, I can always go back in my dreams.

What is it about mountains that binds people to them so firmly? When I think of the mountains, I think of strength and solitude. Tolkien referred to "the bones of the mountains" (or something similar) in LOTR. I think of the mountains as the bones of the Earth, massive and strong, bearing up the weight of the sky. For all Man's technological prowess, the most we can do to the mountains is dig a few measly holes in the dirt looking for coal, a minor irritant that the hills scratch sometimes when it itches too much, causing floods and cave-ins.

The best times of my life have been spent standing on top of a mountain watching the clouds sail by below me. Looking out over the hills and valleys puts my perspective back in order. The hills maintain their imperturbable serenity, and I am reminded of the basic solitude of life. I don't mean lonliness, which is something altogether different. I mean the fundamental solitude of the individual. Maybe I'm not an island, as Donne said, but no matter how connected I may be to others, I remain at all times individual and unique, just as each mountiain has its own unique landscape and personality.

The mountains are within me, and I belong to them. I hope for and work toward the day when I can finally go home.

Slash and Burn

I went a little crazy Thursday. I edited "In the Hands of an Angry God". Maybe "edited" is too weak a word. In fact, I carved that mother like a Thanksgiving turkey. Started at 720 words. By the end of the day, it was down to 450. Cut out a lot of repetition and unnecessary diversions. It's now a very disturbing and hard-hitting story. I sent it to Vestal Review.

Giving up the fight

I'm not going to finish the Dare this time. The goal was 4 short stories over 1000 words rewritten and submitted. I'm only going to make 3. "A TIme to Every Purpose" has gone out already. "Though Your Sins be as Scarlet" is ready, I just need to get it to the Post Office on Monday. I am going to make every effort to get "Carrion Comfort" out the door as well. Either "Wolf Moon" or "Bare Trees" was going to be my fourth, but neither will be ready.

I'm not really disappointed, though. I have done a lot of good work since the first of the year, and I am a much better writer than I was. I've learned a lot and had a blast doing it, and that's the real benefit. I work slower than many people, but I like to think that I can produce an amazing product as I mature as a writer.

Stand clear, so the lightning doesn't get you, too. :)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mama didn't tell me there'd be days like this

Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak
Somewhere in the town
Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak
So don't you be around
Tonight there's gonna trouble
I'm gonna find myself in
911 -- "Jailbreak"

Well, actually a prison break. Spending 2 years as a prison librarian has left me with a lifetime of nightmares. Fought this one all night. Still foggy and headachy. Real hard to concentrate.

Got an e-mail from my father this morning. There's a job opening for an assistant librarian at his alma mater, Kentucky Christian University. There are a lot of reasons for me to apply for this job:

  • It would make Daddy happy
  • I love the location--Grayson, KY is in the Appalachian Mountains. In Carter County, no less.
  • I really need a full-time job with benefits--medical bills are driving us crazy.
  • Better pay and lower cost of living.
BUT

There is one really big reason not to even consider it:

  • I would be the biggest hypocrite in the entire world if I took a job in an institution that supports a religion that I do not support.
'Nuff said. Now all I have to do is figure out how to tell Daddy without really hurting his feelings. Damn.

On the positive side, I did make a lot of progress against the jungle that constantly threatens to take over our yard. Brush-cutting with hand tools is wonderful therapy. Lots of opportunity to cuss and throw things around.

The down side of getting better

"Real Monsters" has been nagging at me for a couple of days. When I proofread the galleys, an awful lot of faults drew my eye. Unfortunately, these are fundamental flaws in the story like logic faults and timing that it's too late to fix. I've already been paid, and the editor has already made space for the story. Withdrawing it now would generate a lot of bad karma that I just don't need. I'll just have to let it go ahead and be embarassed by it. Should it ever get sold to an anthology, though, it will be in a new version.

That's the down side of improving your craft. Your early stuff will most assuredly come back to haunt you.

A lost day

I have spent all day thinking it is Tuesday. Where did Tuesday go? Did somebody out there get an extra one, and can I buy it? Deadlines are inexorably slouching closer and closer. I don't think I will get "Wolf Moon" done in time to send it out on Monday. I'll try. Miracles do happen.

In the meantime, I need to get "Carrion Comfort" whipped into shape. One major flaw that all of my stories have in early drafts is slow starting. I have some need to ease into things. I will need to move the first scene into a flashback and jump right into the action. That won't be too hard. There are also a couple of leftover bits from earlier versions that just don't fit well anymore, so I have to root them out. I think I also need a scene with Brian undergoing a police interrogation. I might be able to work that in by reference in the penultimate scene. That's on tomorrow's agenda. It will be raining, so I should be able to get a lot done.

WWJD?

This idea has been nagging me for several days. What would Jesus do after witnessing 2 millenia of horrors committed in his name? Many people don't remember that Jesus had a temper--the Cleansing of the Temple, "I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34), etc. Brings a whole new dimension to "Jesus wept". I'll have to find a new angle on this, since it's been done so much.

Current marketing plans

"Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" -- Cemetery Dance (to be mailed 2/28)
"Carrion Comfort" -- Chattahoochee Review (to be mailed 2/28)
"Wolf Moon" -- Writers of the Future (to be mailed when ready)
"In the Hands of an Angry God" -- flashquake (to be e-submitted after rewrite)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

So long, HST

No, not Truman. Hunter S. Thompson apparently committed suicide Sunday night in his Woody Creek cabin. I have long been an admirer of Thompson's writing. His no-bullshit style was a real wake-up call back in the early 70's, when I first started to read him. He supposedly invented Gonzo Journalism, where the journalist becomes part of the story and often helps create the story. That he committed suicide is not a real big surprise to me. He lived too hard to be able to tolerate getting old. He was 67.

Just call me Jack

As in the Ripper. Cut "TYSBAS" down to 5005 words. I'll cut 5 more tomorrow. I have to rest now; my knife is smoking. Forcing myself to do this has been educational. I'm learning to recognize wordiness and to think of alternatives. Passive voice is still a bug-a-boo for me, which drives the word count up. I also still have a fondness for adverbs. Need to work on my verb vocabulary. I want to get this one in the mail ASAP. Maybe tomorrow or Thursday.

For now, I'm going to make a few notes on the "Carrion Comfort" revision, then work on the "Wolf Moon" rewrite. I'd like to get them both out no later than Monday, so I can finish the Dare at Forward Motion. I have yet to finish one.

Bad dreams in the night

Last night's entertainment was hammer murders. With a 4-pound sledge, no sissy claw hammers here. Luckily, I was not the one wielding the hammer. Unluckily, the perp was always one step faster than me, and I could never quite catch up. Ugh.

Bang! Bang! Maxwell's silver hammer
came down upon her head
Clang! Clang! Maxwell's silver hammer
made sure that she was dead
Lennon/McCartney -- "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" from Abbey Road

Monday, February 21, 2005

These Dreams

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
Heart

The weekend was filled with dreams. Though I have bad dreams every night (and have for several years), these were much worse than usual. Lots of frantic searching, screaming anger, and unbearable frustration. They don't need interpretation; their meanings are quite clear to me. The real problem is that I am often afraid to go to sleep, and that fear colors the dreams even more. Ourobouros devouring its own tail. I need to sleep. I'm groggy and headachy and generally feel like shit today. Here's hoping for a better tonight.

Feeling good about this, though

Proofread the online galleys of "Real Monsters" earlier. I hope it will be online by March 1.

Also did the final editing pass on "Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet" and started the final polishing. I need to lop off 440 words to get it down to 5000, which is Cemetary Dance's upper limit. Neil Gaiman could probably get away with going over, but I don't think I need to push the envelope on this one. 15 words per page. I can do this.

Georgia moves in mysterious ways

Today is the official observance of President's Day in the US. So why am I, a State employee, at work tonight? Georgia moves in mysterious ways, its holidays to schedule. We will get a day off for Washington's Birthday (Lincoln being a dirty word in this part of the country). We will observe this holiday on December 27. We also observe General Robert E. Lee's birthday (January 19) on the day after Thanksgiving. On the other hand, we will get Confederate Memorial Day as observed on April 25.

Reconstructed, my ass! Damn Yankees ain't gonna get away with pushing their silly holidays on us! They act like they think they won the War, for Christ's sake.

Hope those of you who got one enjoy your day off.