Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Girls!

I will never write anything as lovely as you, Cathleen and Shannon.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Antarctic Winds

I have begun reading The Entire Earth and Sky by Leslie Carol Roberts, which I received for Christmas. Though I'm only a couple dozen pages in, I already am thrilled at what it is showing me. Of course, I have selfish reasons: I'm in the midst of writing my Antarctic novel. And I suppose it helps that winter has descended upon us and given me a nasty cold to boot. But Roberts includes the tasty human details that I am looking for to make Antarctica seem real to readers.

While I might edit things a little differently than her editors did, her voice is there, and that is essential (as it is in any book – fiction or non-fiction.) Indeed, I might even reach out to Ms. Roberts to see if I can learn more from her about Antarctica, though I'll wait until after I've finished her book.

In the meantime, I will listen to the winter wind, feel grateful for my heavy coat, my scarf, hat, and gloves, and imagine my characters in their fictional Antarctica, perhaps catching the music of Icestock at New Years. I wonder if there's live streaming... Will wonders never cease?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

2009: Predictions for the Year in Reading

Soon we will turn the page on 2008. To my mind, not a bad year over all, though I know of many people who don't have the same affection for 2008. I have much to be thankful for: a good year at work, though I can do more; the joy of impending fatherhood; I got my novel in shape to be seen by agents. And I read a lot of books.

I'm not quite prepared to go over what I read that most impressed me. (After all, who really cares what someone else has read, unless they can say well why someone else should read it?) But I think I can offer a few thoughts about what I and other hardcore readers will be reading in 2009.

I expect to see lots of Dress for Success and job-search books on the trains this coming year. I don't know whether ye olde What Color Is Your Parachute is still a go-to help book in this Internet, "information era" age, but there's probably something of that ilk that'll be flying off the shelves -- at least at the library, since no one has any money any more.

Other books of choice will be along the lines of "How to do more with less." As someone who grew up with Depression-era parents, I feel well indoctrinated about that sort of lifestyle. I've always been frugal, and with my kids on the way, I'm sure that'll continue.

I suspect that there'll be a renewed interest in stories of the 1970s, because that's the era that will be most similar to what we're embarking on. The Great Depression, with its breadlines and Hoovervilles just doesn't seem quite as likely as the '70s lunchbox, baby-sitting relatives, PBJ sandwiches, TV dinners, and other forms of parsimony. I wonder if That '70s Show will stage a revival...

But I'm a fiction writer. What's in it for me? I honestly don't know. I suspect that fiction could become slightly less popular than it already is — and it's already fairly unpopular. So read up America! Fiction, nonfiction, whatever you enjoy. And keep or gain employment. Keep this country literate and great!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Different Reading

And so this is Christmas, for old and for young. Another year over. A new year just begun. And so happy Christmas, I hope you have fun.

In the background, as you may have guessed, is John Lennon's And So This Is Christmas, a song from the CD that my wife bought me for Christmas. (Yes, Virginia, there are CDs.) Another reason for celebrating this Christmas is because I have finally reinstalled the Internet to the computer, which is now part of the makeshift office/nursery. We have set up the house in preparation not exactly for the Christ child, but for the two little girls who are coming to join us.

When? That's not exactly for us to know, just yet. Suffice it to say, it could be any day now. It could be today. It could be almost three weeks from now. But it won't be any longer than that. Alas, these children will be born within a Bush presidency, but at least they will never truly know it.

But unto us shall be born quite soon two children, who shall know love and joy and music and words — such beautiful words have not yet been spoken.

This morning, as I sat at Christmas mass (during the boring priest's homily) I read the readings that I'd missed because I was late. And in one was a line I'd not remembered; I think it was from the Old Testament. It was about a city not forsaken. I've forgotten much of what was said already (it was 7:30 mass and I was tired), but I suspect that line was not talking about my children. Yet, that's how I took it.

I intend to not say much about my children on this blog. It is too unprivate. Too exposed. Those who I wish to share thoughts with of that nature know where to find me. But on this Christmas day, when all things are possible — even peace on earth — I can't help myself.

These children provide me with a modicum of hope. I long to meet them, to share with them, to feed and nourish them as they will nourish me. I long to feel their hair, to smell their skin, to clean and pamper them. (And Pamper them ... or whatever brand name we end up with.) They find me unforsaken. Brimming with hope. Happy.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May peace be upon you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Return of the Hot Red-Headed Vampire

Thank God for Christopher Moore. After trudging through the slow but worthwhile history about Benjamin Franklin's work as ambassador to France during the Revolutionary War, I needed something light. So I picked up a copy of Moore's You Suck. I'm more than 200 pages in and so happy that I returned to the humorous worlds of Chris Moore's creation.

If you're unfamiliar with his work, I whole-heartedly recommend you start with Practical Demonkeeping, which is his debut novel. Then go for Bloodsucking Fiends, which introduces the red-headed vampire Jody and her boyfriend (and minion) C. Thomas Flood. They're the happy couple in You Suck, which begins where Fiends ends: with Jody biting Tommy.

Moore also tends to give his characters cameo appearances in other novels. For example, the demon Catch from Practical Demonkeeping, unexpectedly appears in Lamb, which is the gospel according to Biff, Jesus's best friend.

Though not every book is a complete winner, I suspect I'd read anything he produced. And he has a new one coming out in February.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Ben Franklin and the Slow-Moving Book

I should know better. For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading A Great Improvisation, which is a history about Benjamin Franklin's work as ambassador to France during the American Revolution, written by Stacy Schiff. I have always admired Franklin, though my real understanding of his work is based on childhood schoolbooks and movies.

The book is well written and obviously well researched. But God, is it slow! Of course, I began it while I was still working on my NaNo novel, which meant I read it mostly while on the morning portion of my commute. Still, nonfiction — especially densely packed nonfiction — tends to only go at about a 20-page per morning pace, whereas I usually knock out about twice as much for a novel.

But these types of books also allow for a better sense of what a character looks like, and that's nice every once in a while (though I very much enjoy imagining what a person looks like). And a history can inspire other ideas — screenplays, for example, other histories, even plays. I only have a hundred pages left of the 400-plus, and while I probably won't finish it this weekend, I should have it back on a shelf before next week is relegated to history.