i’ve moved…

So I did it.  I made a new blog, this one sans specific theme.

building my wings

Check it out, if you would like to.  I’m pretty sure I won’t be posting here anymore.  If you want to hear about what I’m reading, head on over there, because I’ll still be posting about that, just with some other stuff mixed in.

Goodbye, the nutmeg pages!  It was nice while it lasted.

taking a break…

I just wanted to stop by and state the obvious: I’m abandoning my short-lived blog, at least for a little while.  It was fun at first, but I didn’t have the motivation to post regularly.  Maybe I would do better with a blog without a specific theme, where I could write about a wider variety of topics.  So I might do that, or I might come back to this blog, or I might not do anything.  I need to think it over for a while.

I’m about to do that obnoxious and ugly thing where I apologize for not blogging in, like, forever.  So feel free to disregard this post.  I’m basically only writing it for my own sake.

First of all, my lack of blogging can’t be blamed on StoryADay, because I’ve failed.  I stopped last Friday and figured I was behind enough to just give up.  I know, that was bad.  I’m not happy about it.

I’ve had a Liebster Award post and two book reviews to write for a while and I haven’t.  I’m sorry. I think I’ve reached the point where the novelty of blogging has finally worn off, and it going to take some more motivation on my part.

I should have more book reviews too, but I haven’t been reading very much either.

So what have I been doing instead of all that?  Not much, I’m afraid.  The only excuse I have to offer is that I’ve been “busy” getting ready to go away to college in the fall.  By “busy,” I mostly mean reading college advice online and watching college advice videos on YouTube, but there have been a few actual getting-ready tasks too.  I’m really excited, guys.  A little nervous, but mostly excited.

So that’s it for now.  Stay tuned for some genuine, non-lame posts.

storyaday update #1

My writing challenge has been… somewhat successful so far.  I have managed to write what could pass as a story Monday through Friday, except I finished Thursday’s story on Friday and didn’t write another one…  A small failure there, but I’m going to try to write a story today or some other weekend to make it up.  

My word counts:

Day 1: 100 words
Day 2: 778 words
Day 3: 1,204 words
Day 4: 711 words
Day 5: 583 words
Day 6: 564 words
Day 7: 505 words
Day 8: nothing yet  :(

It’s hard, but at least I’m getting practice.  I’ll be happy if I end up with one or two good stories by the end of the month.  Hopefully I’ll also have gained some more writing experience and confidence.  At least I’ll have 23 bad drafts to work with.  Maybe I’ll be able to come up with some ideas for salvaging them after they’ve “rested” a while.

Should I post one of my stories?  I think I like my Day 5 story the best, though it’s by far the strangest.  I didn’t have an ending in mind when I started, which is something I’ve been trying to stop doing.  It was inspired by this picture and, uh, my toilet.  (My toilet has problems… it likes to keep running and making noises.  It was driving me crazy on Tuesday.)  I haven’t been writing titles for these… I should probably start doing that.

piano

            There is a noise that won’t stop.  It’s aggravating the man, picking apart his nerves one by one.  He looks over at his wife, who doesn’t seem the least perturbed.  Her face, as always, is ice-rink calm.  She is a pianist, and while she doesn’t perform very often these days, he has often imagined that the music goes on playing in her head at all times.  She was taught to play as a girl simply because she had the hands for it, and she eventually found herself in music school.  At the moment those fateful fingers are noiselessly turning the pages of a catalogue.  The man is reading yesterday’s newspaper.  He couldn’t turn a page noiselessly to save his life.

            “Jorie, do you hear that?”

            Marjorie looks up slowly, as if awakening from the sort of deep thought the man didn’t think could be induced by glossy pictures of dresses.  Her forehead creases a little, and her lips slacken before forming words.

            “All I hear is the rain.”

            He squints, listening.  “It sounds like something dripping.  But inside.”

            She shrugs and goes back to her catalogue.  He hears it again and feels the heat of anger seep up.  It is definitely something dripping.  You could torture people with drops of water; he had read about it.  “You a took a bath this morning?”

            She doesn’t bother to look up.  “Yes.”  He leaves the newspaper in a crumpled mess and stalks to the bathroom.  The bath is dry, and the sink too.  He comes back to the sitting room, frowning.

            “Was it me?”  She looks at him coyly. 

            “No.”

            “I haven’t heard anything.”

            He jumps up.  “There it is again!”  He strains his ears, ready for another drop.

            “William.”  She gives him her best charm-school smile.  “Please just sit down.” 

            “But I have to find it,” he murmurs as heads to the kitchen.  He studies the faucet, retightens the handles.

            “I thought you wanted to relax today.”  Her voice drifts in, persistent, cloying.

            “That’s what I’m trying to do!” he shouts back.

            What she says next is softer, but he can still make it out.  “I suppose we’re supposed to be happy, aren’t we?” 

            Will tears through the rest of the house, searching for the drip, drip, drip.  It seems to be getting faster.  He stops at the closed door of the music room.  How can that be?  This is where the sound is coming from.  He rushes in, and his shoe squishes on wet carpet.  He stares at the flooded floor, then his eyes work painfully up to the ceiling.  It is swollen, yellowing; it looks infected.  He backs up, afraid it will choose this moment to give way. 

            Marjorie drifts down the hallway, following the trail of his shouts.  He whips around and snarls into her glassy lake face.  “Did you know about this?” 

            “I may have noticed.  You know I don’t play very much anymore.” 

            “You played yesterday!”  She nods, as if considering this.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

            “Well,” she says, “I didn’t see it as much of a problem.”

            “Didn’t see it as – Christ, Jorie.”  His anger rushes out of him, leaving him empty.  “This room is ruined now.  It’ll probably need to be demolished.”  He runs a hand through his hair and shuffles back to the sitting room. “I don’t know where we’re going to put your piano.”

            He can just barely hear what she says next.  “I suppose this is supposed to make me sad, isn’t it?”

Do you pack a special vacation book with you when you travel?  Or do you just throw whatever you’re reading at the moment in your suitcase?  I don’t have the opportunity to travel very much, but when I do, I’ve always just packed my current book (and maybe a backup) without a thought.  After one vacation spent reading The Life of Pi, and another reading 1984, it occurred to me that maybe I should put more thought into which book to bring.

For my recent trip to New Mexico, I was determined not to make this mistake.  So not only was the book I packed light, funny, and easy to read, it even takes place in New Mexico.  My liquids were under 3.4 ounces, and I had an appropriate book.  I was prepared!red sky at morning

Red Sky at Morning is “a sort of Catcher in the Rye out West,” as the Washington Post Book World review on the back of the book informs me.  I’ll try to minimize the Catcher comparisons in this review, but let’s just say this doesn’t even come close to Catcher for me.  But is it the coming-of-age story of a witty, sarcastic teenage boy?  Sure is.

The witty, sarcastic teenage boy is seventeen-year-old Josh Arnold.  In the summer of 1944, his equally witty and sarcastic father decides to join the Navy and moves his wife and son from Mobile, Alabama to their summer home in the fictional New Mexico town of Corazón Sagrado.  What happens after that is a series of humorous encounters with all of Josh’s new friends, (he has better social skills than Holden) and what I guess is supposed be a defining moment or two at the end.

Let’s get the bad stuff out the way first.  This is a three-star book for me.  I enjoyed reading it.  It served its purpose as a travel book.  It made me smile on many occasions.  The thing is, it barely seems like a cohesive novel.  I was over half-way through and I thought, wait, where’s the conflict?  The back of the book proclaims Red Sky to be about “the values in life that count,” but I honestly cannot pinpoint what these values might be.  The best I could do has to do with end, when Josh decides to {join the Navy, something he hadn’t been planning on before his father’s death}.

In addition to that there’s the subject of race and class,  which the afterword makes a big deal out of.  Sure, Josh is very accepting of any member of the human race, which certainly is impressive for a Southerner in the forties.  Bu-uut, so is his dad.  His mother is full of your typical prejudice, hating Sagrado because it’s “full of Catholics and dangerous people who felt, however vaguely, that Lincoln Was Right.”  His father, most mysteriously, doesn’t have this problem at all.  So… Josh is conflicted between the views of his parents, and finally comes to agree with his father, after much agony and strife?  Nope.  He’s on his father’s side from the very beginning of the book.   Josh has apparently already figured out the values in life that count by the time we get to him.  Pity we had to miss the exciting part.

But, listen, it really is funny.  This part actually made me laugh.  Velva and Venery, twins, have both gotten pregnant, and all of the boys, tenth through twelfth grade, are getting a talking-to.  The local psychiatrist (of whom we saw more of earlier… he’s quite the nutcase himself) has been brought in.

“Hello, boys and girls,” he said to the all-male audience.  “I say girls because some of you, whether you know it yet or not, have a preponderance of female emotional characteristics and will someday be, if you have not already become, homosexuals.  Or, as you would say, fruits.  This is nothing to worry about.  This is perfectly normal and, according to some statistics which I have developed, at least thirty-four per cent of you….”

You know, I did think of two other life lessons Josh learned.  One is, he came to not be so disgusted with the family friends from Alabama (kind of… he still dislikes Jimbob.)  It’s Amalie and his mother I mean.  The second lesson is what Amalie tells him:

One of these days you men are going to realize that underneath the crinoline and the dotted swiss and the lacy pantaloons and the delicate talk, Southern women are tough as a bunch of gawdamn railroad spikes.  Well, the tissue paper’s off your mama now, and don’t try to tell me she broke.  She just chipped.  She’ll be all right.  The women are tougher than the men.

Now, isn’t that nice?

Bradford gets a bonus point for a clever last line.  I do love a good clever last line.  Is the last line a spoiler?  It doesn’t give away any plot details, but it is the last line.  I’ll hide it anyway.  {

“I never seen the ocean.  I never even been out of the country before.  What’s it look like?”

I said: “It’s the color of the sky.”

Don’t see the cleverness yet?  Do what I did.  Close the book, look at the title again.  Ohhh… what color is the sky?  Red…

This is one of those instances when I know it’s clever but I’m not to sure exactly how.  First, I remembered him saying that before, and I finally found it.  He says it to Victoria, page 206 in my edition.  At that point he also says the ocean is the only thing he likes about Alabama.  The ocean and the title are significant because his father ran a shipyard before he enlisted.  The thing is, I just don’t know what the “warning” would be, as I’ve already kind of discussed.  Perhaps just general growing-up, life-is-hard sort of stuff.}

It is a nice little book.  It was a shame I finished it during my trip and only had Moby-Dick to read on the flight back.  It was a late flight I was super tired.  Needless to say, I couldn’t really deal with Ishmael and opted for dosing instead.

 

I have a confession to make, something I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet.  Just as I’ve always been in love with reading, I’ve always been fascinated by writing.  I think it’s probably natural for a reader to wonder about the other side of the process, how the books they love came to be, how a reader could maybe even be a writer herself.  Actually, I would be surprised if there are any bibliophiles out there who haven’t tried to write something of their own at least once.  IMAG0124

It only takes one attempt to learn that writing is hard, way harder than reading.  The same goes for creation in any form: cooking is harder than eating, making music is harder than listening to it.  

Despite my persistent interest in writing, I’ve never been what I’d call a writer.  I’ve never been able to make a habit of writing.  I only have a tiny burst of writing motivation once or twice a year, and that fades as I remember how difficult and frustrating writing is.  

I suppose I just don’t want to write enough to actually sit down and do it.  But I want to just enough to think about it as much as I do.  I often wonder about the writer’s perspective as I read, thinking about where an author might have gotten his or her ideas, or why he or she is using a particular technique, or how I would have written something differently.  Almost every day I see a person or hear a conversation that I know could be part of a story.  Sometimes the idea is so clear in my head, but when I try to fit it into words, it dies.

If you’re still reading, I’m sure you can see where this is going: another burst of motivation.

I was making my breakfast this morning when I realized what day it is.  May 1st. All of a sudden I remembered an online writing challenge I had found several months ago, StoryADay May.  I had sort of planned to do it, but forgotten about it recently.  I have no idea what made me remember.

The goal is to write and finish a short story every day in May.  How you define “story” and “every day” is up to you.  I’m defining “every day” as every weekday, meaning I’m attempting to write 23 stories by the end of this month.  

There is a writing prompt posted on the site every day in May (and every week the rest of the year!) for you to use if you need it.  Today’s was to write a 100-word story, which I decided to do, to ease myself into things.  I ate my breakfast, toast and strawberries, then sat down and wrote a 100-word story about strawberries.  I completed my first story!  (22 more to go… and those will be longer.)

Would you like to read it…? 

For her birthday, she had asked only for strawberries, a luxury her parents never bought.  She had eaten them at her friends’ houses though, the mothers serving the heavy drops of sweetness in crystal bowls, the fruit the same color as their nails and mouths.  Her mother never wore makeup.  Asking for that gift, she knew, would only have resulted in stinging words.

They were on the kitchen counter, in a carton.  “They need to be washed,” said her mother from the table.  She watched the dirt run off into the sink, and she realized she no longer wanted them.

It’s not that simple to write a 100-word story, to fit a beginning, middle, and end into exactly 100 words.  But at least it can be done quickly, and I did it.  They’re not my favorite type of short story to read though, so I am going to try to make most of the stories I write longer.

So if you’re looking for some writing practice, try StoryADay.  I hope it will give me the motivation I need to not only write but finish stories, and to keep writing after May is over.  I’ll be posting updates throughout the month to let you know how the challenge is going. Let me know if you decide to join me!

what, another one?!

booknerd2611 over at the fantastic I’m a Book Lover and Proud! has nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award!  It hasn’t even been a month since I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’m flattered!

Image

This award has the same rules as the Versatile Blogger Award: nominate fifteen other blogs and share seven things about myself.  While I think I can muster up another seven biographic tidbits, I’m kind of running out of blogs to nominate.  I only follow eleven blogs.  That’s probably really low, right?  The thing is, I know there are tons of great blogs and bloggers out there, but I just can’t commit to reading tons of blog posts every day.  I’m supposed to be reading books!  The few blogs I do follow, I read all of their posts.

So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’ll just list all of the blogs I follow.  If I ever get nominated for another award, I don’t know what I’ll do.  Hopefully I’ll be following some more blogs by then!  If you follow any really great blogs you think I’d like, feel free to link them in the comments.

These are the five I already nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award:

And these are the other six blogs I follow!  You should check them out.

And now my seven things:

  1. For someone who loves to read, I’m really bad at answering “What’s your favorite book?” or even “What kind of books do you like to read?”  There’s the obvious reason of there are too many to pick one or even a few, but I’m also a little apprehensive about what people might think of me based on the books I like.  I don’t even know what to think of me based on the books I like.  That’s probably bad.
  2. I’ve never broken a bone, or had any really painful injury.
  3. I don’t have a Facebook account.
  4. My favorite TV show is The Big Bang Theory.  I’ve been known to watch both of the daily reruns on many occasions, if I don’t have anything else to do.  I also like Suburgatory, Modern Family, The Simpsons, and Family Guy.  The only non-comedy I watch is The Mentalist.
  5. I’m allergic to peanuts.
  6. My favorite color is green.
  7. My love of tea started with one of those sugary chai lattes from a coffee shop when I was… ten or eleven?  It’s now progressed to good English loose-leaf black tea with milk, no sugar.  (It was Orwell who got me to stop putting sugar in my tea.  And Lee from East of Eden who got me stop putting sugar in my green tea.)